|On Christmas night, 1919, the new 'shop building' at Warrimoo burst into flame so that by the early hours of the following morning it was 'too far gone to be saved'.|
Originally Henry Varlow was from Leura, further up the ‘Mountains. He was a ‘plumber’ there, and had settled at
Varlow volunteered to fight overseas on 3rd of September of the same year. In other words, he was one of the ‘first wave’ of enthusiastic patriots destined to fight in the
At 38, he was no spring chicken. He had already served in the Imperial Light Horse at the “cessation of hostilities” of the Boer War fourteen years previous. When he signed up for his physical he was described as 5 foot 7 inches tall, 10 stone in weight, fair complexioned with grey eyes. He was to be paid 9 shillings a day.
‘Light Horse glamour’ was not to be his calling this time, however. He was to be a member of the 4th Infantry Brigade in the 7th Company of the Army Services Corps. The range of jobs in the Services Corps could be anything from stable-hand, to cook, to transport provision and construction. This may have been a disappointment to him.
Whatever the circumstances, Henry Varlow’s service record grew steadily more miserable. It began with minor misdemeanours such as ‘untidy quarters’ but then a series of complaints about his ‘sciatica’ had Henry in and out of hospital as an increasingly disgruntled soldier. Was he a ‘slacker’? The AIF reports are careful to avoid the charge, but ultimately the Army could bear it no longer—Henry Varlow was discharged due to ‘medical unfitness’.
Warrimoo must have offered Henry and his family an opportunity to put the war behind them and start afresh: to build a new and successful life. A sympathetic landlord in the form of the Rickard Company, a double storeyed dwelling leased to him at discounted rates, and the chance to build a shop’s clientele within a growing community. It required patience and dedication…
|The Varlows may well have thought Warrimoo would grow more rapidly and become a modern cosmopolitan centre for tourists--maybe it was all too slow.|
Christmas Day 1919, however, did not bring the cheer the Varlows may have wished for. On that night a fellow ex-serviceman, Henry Todd of
The Blue Mountains Echo of 2nd January 1920, takes up the story, under the heading ‘BIG BLAZE AT WARRIMOO’…
|Varlow's alibi was that he was elsewhere on the night of the fire. Surely a cursory check of his whereabouts on Christmas night would have established its truth or otherwise...|
Night officer Hartigan said on the night of the 25th, he let a man whom he thought and believed to be Varlow out at Blaxland, one and a half miles from Warrimoo. Witness said he had never been introduced to Varlow, but he knew him by his prominent teeth and his voice.
Apparently so, since after an adjournment of a week, the prosecution could come up with no further concrete evidence to fit Varlow to the fire. As to motive, there appeared to be none. While a piano had been removed from the property some weeks beforehand, Mrs. Varlow testified that the couple had lost 105 pounds on furnishings and equipment in their lodgings. The central claimant for insurance damages had been A. Rickard and Co., for the destruction of the building. This was for the amount of 1,203 pounds.
For Henry Varlow, however, this was the end of Warrimoo for him and his family. He could no longer live in a community where he was ‘under a cloud’. He left and returned to Leura.