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Audio: Black Thursday soundscape

  • Date recorded: 10 Jan 2010

  • Duration: 07:07

'I'm told ships in the bay sat terrified as sparks and embers landed on their decks or in their sails, setting them ablaze. Religious or not, you could hardly fail to think this might be the end of days.'

About this recording

Step back in time to 6 February 1851, when bushfires raged across Victoria – turning day to night, and destroying life and property. This soundscape re-creates the drama and tragedy of that terrible day depicted in the dramatic artwork Black Thursday, painted by William Strutt, using voices, music and sound effects.

When William Strutt returned to London, he took with him many newspaper clippings of accounts of the great bush fire of 1851. These first-person accounts of the tragedy provided Mr Strutt with the characters and scenes for his painting. With the help of the State Library's newspaper archives, the Black Thursday soundscape tells the tale of many of the characters and narratives depicted in the painting, which you can see hanging in the Library's Cowen Gallery.

Drawing on first-hand accounts of the bushfires found in the Library's newspapers collection, director John Paul Fischbach has brought to life the people, stories and terrifying atmosphere of Black Thursday as depicted by William Strutt.


  • Michael Davoren: William Strutt, British painter
  • Mick Cahill: McLelland, Scottish rancher
  • Josie Scott: Mary, British settler
  • Michael Szuc: John, Mary's husband
  • Frankie Walker: Barwon, Mary and John's son
  • Tjimba Possum-Burns: Jackie, their Aboriginal farmhand
  • Angelo Salamanca: Charles, travelling actor manager
  • Jo Fripp: Catherine, actress with the troupe
  • Gina Morley: Lizzie, Irish settler
  • Natalie Gee: Anne, Lizzie's daughter
  • Joanna Clyne: Joseph, Lizzie's son
  • Michael Jeffery: Pat, Lizzie's husband


John Paul Fischbach is an internationally recognised theatre director, producer and special events creator. He has worked on heritage and history dramatic audio projects in Australia, Canada and the US.