Unearthing a legend: Wagga man certain city's secret tunnels exist

One man remains certain the Chinese-built tunnels under Wagga’s main street were more than a myth. 

Buried secrets: Passionate historian Patrick Byrnes says personal recounts across a century back the existence of the legendary tunnels under Wagga's main street.

Buried secrets: Passionate historian Patrick Byrnes says personal recounts across a century back the existence of the legendary tunnels under Wagga's main street.

Wagga resident Patrick Byrnes has dedicated years of his life to preserving the history of the city. 

He said a big part of that history was the tunnel systems that snaked beneath the surface. 

Mr Byrnes approached The Daily Advertiser to share his findings and memories, after an article was published about the rumoured passageways under Fitzmaurice Street. 

The existence of legendary tunnels left residents divided, with some adamant they did not exist. Others, like Mr Byrnes, believe otherwise.

Mr Byrnes spent more than five years wading through old newspapers, archives and memoirs to collate two large volumes of pictures, clippings, recounts and facts. 

Riddled throughout the two volumes, were details of tunnels that residents had stumbled across, fallen into and explored across the 20th century. 

“There were three different tunnel systems in Wagga,” Mr Byrnes said.

“There were the King’s Tunnels – for storm drainage – on Mitchelmore Street, the tunnels under the railway line and the Chinese opium tunnels under Fitzmaurice Street.”

Mr Byrnes said he was fortunate to have spoken with former residents about their first-hand experiences before they died. 

Since then, he said stories were mostly third hand and businesses had sealed and filled the whatever had remained. 

“As a kid, Pat Keigho was told to not go down the tunnel under – Earsman's Dry Cleaning – because it was evil,” he said. 

“First thing she did was run down there to have a look.”

He said tunnel remnants, entrances and brickwork had been found near Romano’s and Knight’s Meats, the old David Jones building, Harry Francis’ Quick Print office, the second courthouse and the old Maples building.  

“When Mike Logan shifted from the Harry Francis building, he put a printing press through the floor board,” Mr Byrnes said. 

“He could see a large bricked in tunnel running east to west, but he was only looking at the crack in floor.” 

Wagga resident Roy Cooke said his mother used to tell stories about the Chinese shop owners who lived on Fitzmaurice Street. 

“My mother – who was about 12 years old at the time – and her parents had a shop across the road from the Chinese,” Mr Cooke said.

“They used to come across one side of the street and come up at the back of another shop.”

His mother had said no one ever saw the Chinese cross the road, but somehow they would arrive in each other’s stores.