Late in the afternoon on Thursday 23 July 1953 a four year old Taree boy, Michael Dunn, was reported missing at Coomba Park (Wallis Lake). He had wandered away from his father who was helping friends sink tanks on their property. People came with horses and lanterns to search for the boy through the night. Early Friday morning a large number of residents and visitors from Taree, Tuncurry, Forster and surrounds arrived to help with the search. Sawmills were closed so workers could help look, while fishermen combed the foreshores. The terrain was thick and high making searching difficult. Two dams were drained as it was feared the boy had drowned in one of them.1
By 4 pm Friday afternoon the last search of the day was conducted, 250 volunteers walked side by side over 2½ miles searching and calling out.2 When the day’s search was called off volunteers were told to return to the base. A young Graham Barclay had a feeling all day that the boy would be found so he ignored the instructions and continued on. He climbed a tree and called out to the boy. He shortly received an answer ‘Here I is’.3 Within a matter of minutes Graham had found the boy and walked out of the bush with him, safe and mostly unharmed. There was jubilation and the manager of the Lakes and Ocean Hotel at Forster provided refreshments for all. It was the largest search ever conducted in the area.4
Just 18 months later, Michael was playing on the footpath of his Cornwall Street home when he was struck by a timber lorry. He was rushed to hospital but died just hours later.5 Michael is buried at Dawson Cemetery Taree.6
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 27 July 1953, 1 & 3.
3 Interview with Mr Graham Barclay, 21 November 2018.
4 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 27 July 1953, 1 & 3.
5 Manning River Times, 5 January 1955, 1 & 2.
6 Australian Cemetery Index, http://austcemindex.com/inscription?id=8246157#images. Roman Catholic Portion, Row E/46.