Tag Archives: convicts

Weekend Coffee Share April 23, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

This week, my daughter and I went to Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. A friend of my Mum’s very kindly gave us free tickets and our son didn’t want to go. I don’t think he liked all the crowds last year. Anyway, we started off by getting our caricatures done. They were hilarious and the artist did a fabulous job…especially when he told me I looked about 7 years younger. he really captured our joie de vivre. Next we were off to see the animals. It was the very last day of the show and due to my daughter’s dance classes, we didn’t get there until 4.30PM, so I wasn’t too sure what we’d be able to see, especially on the animal front. Miss was very keen to see the alpacas and there were some inside the Farmyard Nursery, which was something akin to anarchy with kids, parents and pat-able farm animals wandering around inside something like a circus tent. You’d have to be made of stone not to love it in there! Miss and I aren’t big on rides, but we decided to have one go on the dodgem cars….a family tradition. However, we could only find the kids’ dodgems and spent something like an hour wandering around try to find the elusive dodgems and almost gave up. In the meantime, we sampled food in the Woolworths’ Pavillion and saw some Donald Trumpkins. That man has been such a gift to satirists and comedians. Eventually, on the brink of physical collapse, we discovered the dodgems and I think we both decided “never again”. I must be getting old. All I could think about was “chiropractor”! Lastly, we were off to the infamous Showbag Hall. We didn’t go crazy and only bought a show bag for each member of the family. Then, it was time to catch the train home and surveying the crowds, my 11 year old daughter asked: “Why do so many adults have such big toys?” It’s not that I’m cynical. However, I told her that it was so guys could show they loved their girlfriends. I still remember “the trophies” from when I was back at school.

If you follow my blog at all, you’ll know that I’m in the throws of the annual Blogging A-Z  April Challenge and we’re Travelling Alphabetically around Tasmania. Yesterday, we visited Salamanca Place in Hobart visiting the markets in the present as well as it’s past as a warehousing area at the port. Naturally, there was a striking juxtaposition between the two, which made for an intriguing trip. I love time travelling.

As much as I love the Blogging A-Z Challenge, it is also very taxing and I’m completely spent by the end. It is definitely a marathon taken at the pace of a sprint, although I know I overdo it every year and am supposed to keep it simple…vignette’s and not the history of the known universe for every post. However, you are who you are. You just need to see all the tea cups meandering around our house, to know I’m prone to excess. .

At the same time, I could well have a body of work approaching 26,000 words at the end and that’s not something to complain or whinge about either. I also have a lot of other writing about Tasmania which I didn’t include in the series. So, you don’t need to be much past 10 finger arithmetic to know that a book’s well within my grasp. One that, at least at this stage, seems a lot easier to structure and put together than my much anticipated book project…a realist’s experience of the ups and down of living with a severe chronic illness and needing to squeeze the most out of life. It is anything but views from my deathbed, although that could be a good title in a funny sort of way. Indeed, it’s so dark, I love it.

If you’ve never undertaken the A-Z Challenge, I highly recommend you have a go next year. Many of us have a theme and it’s good to get your head around that well ahead of time. Last year, my theme was “Letters to Dead Poets”, which became understandably intense. That resulted in a 65,000 word manuscript I put aside to “stew” and haven’t quite managed to get back there. Although I often end up posting daily, I’ve found writing alphabetically through a topic shakes it up completely, because with my themes, alphabetical order has  actually made the progression quite random. That was particularly obvious this year, when we’re Traveling Alphabetically around Tasmania and our route has painted quite a spider’s web across the map. I also accidentally by-passed Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart, for “H” and instead wrote about “Home”…my husband’s home town of Scottsdale because I knew I had too many choices for “S”. So, that meant writing a prelude to our visit to Hobart’s Salamanca Place where the famous markets are held each Saturday.

I’ve also come to appreciate the challenge of “living in the now”, for lovers of history. I love research and just get drawn into the historic newspapers and the juxtaposition between then. I’ve found so many incredible stories, which are so much more interesting than a simple fire or burglary these days. I also believe that it’s really important to know our personal, family and cultural history. The flip side of this, unfortunately, has been the slaughter and attempted slaughter of  indigenous cultures right around the world. Many have been resilient and overcome so much, but that doesn’t undo what was done. After all, you may not be aware that the English wiped out the Tasmanian Aborigine and it’s pretty sobering to read settler accounts of “the natives are all gone”.

School goes back for term 2 on Wednesday. I am really trying hard to be organized for the new term (which is after all, a clean slate with all new characters LOL). However, our daughter has dance camp on the first three days of term and I’ll be driving her to Kurrajong, leaving no. 1 son to get himself to school. My daughter and I are planning to stay up there overnight but I haven’t booked anything as I baulked at the cost and need to revisit it. As much as I love her dancing, now that she’s pursuing it seriously, my life has complexified completely!

Well, I hope you and yours have had a great week and I realized after all this talking, that I haven’t even offered you something to eat or drink. My apologies. It’s not the first time, that I’ve been a lousy host and knowing me, it won’t be the last. Many thanks for popping by!

xx Rowena

S- Salamanca Place, Hobart.

Welcome once again to Day 16 of the Blogging A-Z Challenge. Today, we’re going to Hobart’s famous Salamanca Markets, which are held from 9.00AM to 3.00PM every Saturday in Salamanca Place. However, before reading about Salamanca Place, I recommend you read the preamble, which provides a quick snapshot of the early days of Hobart Town.

salamanca-market-map-v4

Although I love markets, I must admit I was completely spellbound when we visited Salamanca Markets on our January visit. A few months down the track, the details of Salamanca Markets are a blur. I was absolutely dazzled by such a kaleidoscope of colour, texture, food and razzle-dazzle within its stoic historic setting. There was such a range of clothing, new and vintage and such an eclectic array of ephemera as well as scrumptious treats. It now feels like so much, so much of everything and almost overwhelming. In two hours, we’d barely touched the sides. I hope you enjoy the photographs and you get the opportunity to get there yourself.

However, there’s so much more to Salamanca Place than just the markets when you go back in time.

Originally called “The Cottage Green”, Salamanca Place was named after the Duke of Wellington’s 1812 victory in the Battle of Salamanca, Spain. Salamanca Place itself consists of rows of sandstone buildings, originally used as warehouses for the port of Hobart Town. To give you a feel for Salamanca Place during the warehouse era, I’ve sandwiched together numerous newspaper snippets:

sailors Rest Hobart

John Shirlow’s 1933 etching of Hobart’s run down Sailor’s Home in Salamanca Place.

“A SAILOR MISSING -a Water Police Sergeant Ward reported at the Central Police Station, Hobart, on Saturday that Mr. Vimpany, of the Sailors’ Home, Salamanca Place, had reported to him that James Corbet, seaman of the barque Wild Wave, had been missing since the 20th. Corbet is about 50 years of age, 5ft. 7in. in height, of medium build, grey hair and moustache. When last seen, which was in Macquarie-street at 11.40 and 11.55 the night of the 20th, he was dressed in a dark coat and trousers and a hard hat. He was then under the influence of drink… A deputation consisting of members of the Sailors’ Host (Salamanca-place) committee waited on the Premier yesterday to ask that tho Government grant them a site for new premises. Mr. Cleary, M.H.A., having introduced the deputation, Mr. Jno. Macfarlane (chairman of the committee) said the institution was established 36 years ago, and was an entirely unsectarian effort, churches of all denominations being represented on the committee of management. It proved an inestimable boon to sailors when in port, but the building was very old, ramshackle, and unsuitable, and was often crowded out with sailors. The committee proposed selling the present building, and erecting a new and more suitable one, anticipating that after the war, when so many vessels would be putting into the port, there would be a greater demand than over for accommodation, and all that was possible in that way should be done for our brave sailors of the mercantile marine, to whom the Empire owed so much in braving the submarine and other dangers. The Victorian Government had granted new sites ‘for sailors’ rests in Melbourne and Geelong. It would be a graceful act for the Government of Tasmania to grant a site as a peace offering. There were two sites which it was desired to submit as suitable. One was a piece of ground at the back of the Museum, and facing Constitution Dock, and the other a site next to where the Mariners’ Church stood. Both sites would be very central… Thieves who attempted to break open a safe in a factory in Salamanca Place, Hobart, on Wednesday night, gave up after jamming the door… HOBART HOSPITAL CASES. Eric Warne, 29, working at a pressing machine in a cider factory in Salamanca Place, Hobart, yesterday, got his left hand caught between one of the spindles and the bulb on the driving wheel, causing the fracture of two bones. He was admitted to the Public Hospital. Walter Cloak, 48, builder, of 13 Tower-road, New Town, fell from a ladder yesterday afternoon. He was admitted to the Hobart Public Hospital, and his condition is satisfactory… Fire at Salamanca Place. About 2 p.m. today a fire broke out in a large quantity of hay stacked in a yard at the rear of Messrs J . B Fryer and Company’s bay and chaff store, Salamanca Place. It appears that the hay, which is in a green condition, was carted from the Railway Station this morning and stacked in the yard, and when the men left at 1 o’clock everything appeared safe. At 2 o’clock a person named Hallett had his attention drawn to a cloud of smoke issuing from Mr Fryer’s yard. He immediately ran round to the scene of the outbreak and found flames bursting forth from the hay from several parts. With the Assistance of a number of Mr Fryer’s employees he pulled the bales apart. This, instead of smothering the flames, caused them to burn more fiercely. A few minutes afterwards the Brigade arrived, and by pouring a copious supply of water on the burning bales, they prevented the further spread of flames it is estimated that over 16 tons of hay are destroyed, The cause of the fire is at present unascertained. Experts attribute it to spontaneous combustion, while others think that a lighted match might have been carelessly thrown down…HORRIBLE STENCH IN SALAMANCA PLACE. SIR, For some time past a sickening stench has permeated the neighbourhood of Salamanca-place, caused by the storage of the offal meat which is collected weekly from the butchers, and during the recent hot weather the smell has been intensified, causing headache and nausea to those compelled to breathe the sickening odour…Parts of Salamanca Place had been the subject of many disputes up till comparatively recent times. What the merchants and their successors in title feared was that, if hidden by a row of high buildings, Salamanca Place would develop into a slum. The present City Council and Marine Bd. were working together in amity with a view to improving the harbour front… USE AND BEAUTY. Change In Salamanca Place STRANGE how one can live in a place and still know little of what is taking place except in the circumscribed area covered by one’s daily routine. Yesterday I took a walk down Salamanca Place and round by Castray Esplanade to Sandy Bay Rd. I was delighted with the work already done to get rid of the old eyesore of junk deposits in Salamanca Place. Beside No. 1 shed of Princes Wharf a vast concrete pavement is being laid about 20 or more yards wide, part of which is completed. The unsightly enclosures that disgraced this area have been pulled down, and soon their place will be taken by something much more inviting. The approach to Hobart from the water will be improved, and the road, with its row of finely-grown trees on one side and old stone buildings on the other, will be a spectacular asset of the city. After that the visitor can stroll along the esplanade, passing Princes Park-a lovely little spot -and, with a constantly changing view of the river, wend his way to Sandy Bay. Few cities I know can offer a more pleasing stroll than this… “That Tree”. RECENT criticism has made the tree in Salamanca Place, Hobart, look slightly ridiculous. It stands alone in heavy traffic and serves no useful purpose. Its removal would lessen traffic hazards on the waterfront without detracting from the harbour’s beauty. Lawns and shrubs in front of Parliament House would provide all the natural beauty one could desire in such a business area. The large concrete areas near the piers, and the present concreting of Franklin Wharf can only result in faster traffic and greater hazard to pedestrians.”

Hobart near Salamanca crop

Salamanca Place and Hobart Wharf.

 

Naturally, it is very hard to look at the Salamanca Place of today and even imagine this past. However, I think it’s very important we delve into our surroundings. That we scratch beneath the surface and try to glean something about all those many, many layers which have gone before us. Not to turn back the clock and live in the past, but rather to gain a better understanding of how we reached the present, and what has helped make us what we are as a community today. After all, as much as we have personal memories which need to be preserved, we also need to know, find out and preserve our community memory…that eclectic mix which becomes our culture.

Having this essential critical need to know my personal, family and community history, makes the genocide of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people resonate all the more with me. What was lost. It’s hard to know what to say so many years later, but I think our former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd got it right with a simple “sorry”.

I am sorry.

xx Rowena

 

S- Prelude to Salamanca Place, Hobart.

Welcome to Day 18 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

As you may recall, we are Travelling Alphabetically around Tasmania. Last night, we drove from the Richmond to Hobart to get an early start at the Salamanca Markets.

Although you might think I planned to get us here for the markets, it’s pure luck. I simply added places to letters and don’t have the brain power to calculate when and where we’re going to be on a given day, especially as we get towards the end of the list.  So, we’ll have to put it down to “serendipity”, that funny sense of “meant to be” you experience when random things collide. You see, Salamanca Markets are only open on Saturdays from 9.00 AM to 3.00 PM. So, they’re very easy to miss, when you’re trying to squeeze the entire island into such a finite time.

However, before we hit the markets, we’d better touch on Hobart’s origins.

Located on the Derwent River, Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and the second oldest city in Australia. Prior to British settlement, the area had been occupied by the semi-nomadic Mouheneener tribe, a sub-group of the Nuennone, or South-East tribe for at least 8,000 years, but possibly for as long as 35,000 years.[1] In 1803, the British established a settlement at Risdon Cove after explorers George Bass and Matthew Flinders proved Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) was an island and they were concerned about a French invasion. In 1804, Hobart was established in 1804 at Sullivan Cove at the mouth of the Derwent River where it make a major convict outpost. From 1803 – 1853, over 75,000 convicts served time in Van Diemen’s Land, but prior to 1812, all VDL convicts came out via NSW.

Drunken Admiral

While it’s hard to find a family connection with Hobart, we do know that Geoff’s 3rd Great Grandmother, Bridget Vaughan was accommodated at what in now the the Drunken Admiral Restaurant, on Constitution Dock when she first arrived in Van Dieman’s Land. An inmate of the Ennimyston Workhouse in Ireland, Bridget was brought out as part of the Orphan Immigration Scheme, arriving on board The Beulah. The Beulah sailed out of Plymouth on 15 July 1851, arriving at the Old Wharf at Hobart in Van Diemen’s Land. I don’t know how long Bridget spent in Hobart, but it felt quite profound and almost creepy walking over the same wooden floorboards Bridget had trod on our last visit.

This reminds me that, although Geoff came from Tasmania, he’s barely dipped his little toe in Hobart. Growing up in N.E Tasmania, Hobart was a 3 hour drive each way and they simply drove down and back in a day. Moreover, as Geoff’s older siblings had left Tassie when he was still a boy, family holidays tended to be on the Mainland or off to Nanna’s in Bridport. Even at university, he only ever visited Hobart for kayaking competitions. That was sufficient. Sounds  to me like Hobart was a different world.

Constitution Dock

Constitution Dock, 2017.

This reminds me of the intense rivalry between the North and South in Tasmania. For a small State which is frequently left off the map and struggles economically, it’s hard to conceive how this rivalry  could be so intense. Rather, you’d expect Tasmanians to stick together against their common enemy…the Mainlander and maybe they ultimately do. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t turn on each other with a passion. Oatlands, at least was,  considered the dividing line or “trench” between them. With Launceston being the “capital” of the North, Hobart was Tasmania’s official state capital. There were mostly free settlers in the North, and a higher concentration of convicts in Hobart. The battle between North and South, even extends to the beer. In the North, they’ve historically drunk Boag’s and in the South, it’s been Cascade and never the twain shall meet. When Geoff was there, it must also be remembered, there was also no National Aussie Rules Competition and the Tasmanian competition was divided into three regions, and never the three shall meet…South, North-East and North-West.

So, this means that while I’ve been researching Salamanca Place and trying to get an intimate feel for the geography of Hobart, I haven’t been able to consult my in-house Tasmanian expert. Rather, I’ve had to depend on historic newspaper sources and maps to establish that sense of Salamanca Place as a working landscape. That its been more than just a bunch of historical buildings and background canvas for the markets.

DSC_1431.JPG

Salamanca Markets January 2017 with historic buildings in the background.

So, prelude over, let’s adjourn to Salamanca Place! We’re only walking down the street, but it’s still a big day.

xx Rowena

 

P- Port Arthur, Tasmania.

Welcome to Day 15 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

As you may be aware, we’re Travelling Alphabetically Around Tasmania. So far, we’ve explored: The Nut at Stanley, Launceston, Home (Scottsdale)Eagle Hawk Neck and Bridport, while reading John Mitchel’s Jail Journal. We’ve indulged on Ashgrove Cheese, Convict Pizza and had fish & chips at Penguin.

In other words, we’ve been squeezing the essence out of every single nook and cranny and really absorbing Tasmania. Well, at least the parts we’ve been to, because there have been many glaring omissions and we could definitely return and easily run through an entirely different alphabet without too much trouble.

That is, if we still had any oomph left. I don’t know how you’re holding up but we’re starting to get a bit worn out and the kids are starting to ask the inevitable…”Are we there yet?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love travel. I don’t want to go home yet. Indeed, my husband and I have had more than a passing glance in real estate windows, while we’ve been in Tassie.

However, as much as we love Tasmania, I’m starting to feel like a pyjama day and not only sleeping in, but sleeping through an entire day and not going anywhere at all. Indeed, I’ve started wondering if they could lock me up at Port Arthur for a bit. Give me a chance to stare up at the sky and count clouds for an entire day or even a week, without feeling I’m supposed to be going somewhere, being somewhere else?  I’d also like to be a HUMAN BEING again, not just a HUMAN DOING, getting in and out of the car, looking, looking, looking, walking, photographing, eating,  wishing we could move here and be in this place forever, only to repeat the whole process the next day and the next. It does become rather exhausting and I have felt like I’ve been leaving bits of myself all over the place, while my bag fills up with enough of Tasmania to create an offshoot back home.

Yet, we’re made of tougher stuff and the journey goes on.

So, today, we’ll be driving 156.2 KM south from to Port Arthur, the notorious convict prison.

port-arthur-illustrated-news

OLD CONVICT CHURCH, PORT ARTHUR, The ruins of the old convict church at Port Arthur form one of the few remaining relics that mark the site of the once famous penal settlement of Tasmania. This settlement was situated on Tasman’s Peninsula, a narrow strip of land to the south east of Hobart, from which it is distant about 64 miles, and, on account of its almost complete isolation was considered to be the most secure prison in the island. Surrounded almost on every side with water which teemed with sharks, its only connection with the mainland ; by Eagle Hawk Neck being guarded by chains of sentinels and ferocious blood hounds, it well deserved the trust reposed in it by the convict authorities, for few were the escapes, that took . place from it. Even old hands that had broken prison time after time, recognised the fact and took for their motto “All hope abandon ye who enter here.” For over 40 years it remained a penal settlement, but in May, 1877, it ceased to be a prison, the establishment being broken up, and now very little remains to mark the spot of the ancient stronghold of the law. The old church, which we illustrate is one of the most interesting objects in the place, and if only on account of its picturesqueness is well worth visiting.” Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1876 – 1889), Saturday 8 January 1887, page 10.

However, for us Port Arthur is more than just a historic site. Since our trip, there’s been some doubt about whether or not Geoff’s 3rd great Grandfather had been held at Port Arthur while serving out his 14 year sentence for burglary. However, while we were there in January, we were under the impression that he had, which gave our visit there such poignancy. Such meaning. I couldn’t help but think about how James Newton would’ve felt when he first saw Port Arthur… It’s hard to imagine any human being in leg irons these days and enduring the barbaric punishments and isolation they experienced there, but it did. Knowing it happened to family, gave me chills. He didn’t kill anyone, but he did commit multiple burglaries on one night so he was no saint either.

However, since we only have a day to see Port Arthur, we’ll be taking the ferry ride passed the Isle of the Dead (where the convicts were buried) and onto Point Puer, where the young boys were detained. We’ll also go on a tour to hear some of the history of Port Arthur. Then, we’ll walk over to the Chapel, the Chaplain’s house and the gardens. This has left a vast amount of Port Arthur for next time, but as it is this will be enough. If we were able to stay overnight, I would’ve loved to do a ghost tour.

Since I’ve already written about these before, I’ll simply leave the links for you to pursue yourself on what becomes something of a self-guided tour.

Port Arthur Harbour Cruise.

The Chapel, Port Arthur.

The Chaplain’s Voice

The Gardens At Port Arthur

On that note, I’d better be heading to bed myself. While I’ve been running around Port Arthur on the blog today, in real life I was meandering around Sydney’s Royal Easter Show, much of it looking for the dodgem cars. We walked over 5 kilometres and I can barely walk after arriving home. My legs are on strike!!

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed out very brief trip to Port Arthur.

Best wishes,

Rowena

J-Jail Journal : A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 10 of our Alphabetical Tour Around Tasmania.

Today, we’re visiting John Mitchel’s Jail Journal, which is indeed a book, rather than a place. The first edition of John Mitchel’s Jail Journal was published in the New York Citizen, the journal established by Mitchel on his arrival in America, between 14th January and 19th August 1854.

As you may recall, I wrote a brief bio of John Mitchel: Here.

John mitchel with signature

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew, trying to sum up Jail Journal in a few quick paragraphs. Indeed, I’m choking on my folly.

Of course, writing about Jail Journal seemed a fabulous idea three months ago, when we were driving around Tasmania and I was scrawling out my list of all things Tasmanian from A to Z. Back then, I not only needed a “J”, I also thought I had a good grasp on the book. Well, at least the story.

However, it turns out that I’d only read the chapters pertaining to Mitchel’s escape, and hadn’t exactly read most of the book. Moreover, now that I have read most of the book (more in the manner of an express train than pausing at every station), all I’m seeing is a blur. Still, I’ll attempt to pull out some detail.

So, I apologize in advance for any mistakes or omissions and ask you to add these in the comments please. Today, I’m very much on my L Plates (that’s what we stick on the car in Australia when you’re learning to drive).

Jail Journal

Jail Journal opens on May 27, 1848 in Newgate Prison after John Mitchel has been sentenced to 14 years transportation:
“On this day, about four o’clock in the afternoon, I, John Mitchel, was kidnapped, and carried off from Dublin, in chains, as a convicted felon. I had been in Newgate Prison for a fortnight. An apparent trial had been enacted before 12 of the castle jurors…Sentence had been pronounced, with much gravity, by that ancient Purple Brunswicker, Baron Le Froy- fourteen years’ transportation; and I had returned to my cell and taken leave of my wife and two poor boys.1. ”

Trial_of_John_Mitchel_1848

Trial of John Mitchel 1848

Mitchel goes on to ask:

“…for what has this sacrifice been made? Why was it needful? What did I hope to gain by this struggle with the enemy’s `Government’ , if successful? What unsuccessful? What have I gained? Questions which it truly behoves me to ask on this evening my last day (it might be) of civil existence. ..I am on the first stage of my way, faring to what regions of unknown horror? And may never, never- never more , O, Ireland! – my mother and my Queen!- see vale, or hill, or murmuring stream of thine. And why? What is gained? 2.”

As it turns out, John Mitchel travelled to Van Dieman’s Land in a circuitous route via Bermuda and South Africa. Once he reaches Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania), he finds out that he will serve out his sentence “as a gentleman”, rather than a run of the mill convict. The journal follows the ups and downs of being exiled from his homeland, his family and describes his encounters. It concludes on the 29th November, 1853 four and a half years later, after his escape culminates in his arrival in New York.

While the dust cover suggests Jail Journal is acknowledged as an important piece of Irish literature, it’s not well known in Australia, even in Tasmania.

Indeed, despite having an Honours Degree in Australian History and also studying Australian Literature at the University of Sydney 1988-1992, I’d never heard of John Mitchel or Jail Journal until we were researching Geoff’s family history. Geoff’s family pretty much populates the North and North-East of the State. However, we only needed to trace back his direct line, to find our connection with John Mitchel and quite a few references to his family throughout Jail Journal.

Daniel Burke

Daniel Burke- Geoff’s Great Great Grandfather who helped John Mitchel escape.

You see, Geoff’s Great Great Uncle, John Burke and wife Honora (formerly O’Meara) concealed Mitchel in their Westbury home for two weeks, during which time Mitchel acted as nurse for their son, William Morgan Burke:
“Mrs Burke is busied in preparations for our departure, and in providing what is needful for our journey. Amongst other things, the good creature gets some lead and judiciously casts bullets. Her husband comes with us, as well as his brother (Daniel Burke); and their father (William Burke) lends me a good horse”3 .

BTW, such was the closeness between Mitchel and the Burkes’, that Mitchel left Daniel Burke his infamous horse, Donald, after his escape. This Daniel Burke went on be the Warden of Westbury for many years and celebrated his 100th birthday.

While my kids have had their heads overloaded with family history and more stories than they could ever hope to remember, my husband grew up knowing very little about his family’s part in Mitchel’s escape. In recent years, we’ve met up with various cousins who’ve helped reunite us with Geoff’s family history, but it’s been something we’ve acquired and had to research ourselves, not passed down through the family.

Anyway, when John Mitchel arrived in Hobart Town on board The Neptune on the 5th April, 1850; his first impressions were far from positive:
“We are becalmed in the Channel; but can see the huge mass of Mt Wellington, ending to the Eastward in steep cliffs. In the valley at the foot of those cliffs, as they tell me, bosomed in soft green hills, bowered in shady gardens, with its feet kissed by the blue ripples of the Derwent- lies that metropolis of murderers and university of burglary and all subter-human abomination, Hobart-Town.4″

I’m not going to dwell on Mitchel’s time in Tasmania prior to his escape, except to mention that his family moved out from Ireland to join him and they bought a farm…Nant Cottage.

nant_cottage_big

Nant Cottage, Bothwell where John Mitchel lived with his family in Tasmania.

To all intensive purposes, aside from the occasional ripple, it appeared John Mitchel had accepted his fate and put down roots.
However, all that changed with the arrival of “Nicaragua” Smyth from New York, who’d been sent to help the Irish exiles escape. Being too difficult to for them to escape at once, it was agreed that Mitchel would go. However, first he would have to withdraw his word as a Gentleman that he wouldn’t escape. This would cancel his parole and, of course, alert authorities to his plans. So, he had to make a speedy and well-orchestrated getaway. Desperate Mitchel now resolved to trust to his disguise, and go to Hobart Town by the public coach, so, getting into Launceston by midday, he walked coolly down the street to the house of a friend, and having eaten, took passage as Father Blake by the night coach. He accomplished his journey safely, notwithstanding that he had a fellow-passenger, the Hon. T. M’Dowell, then Attorney-General, who tried to get him into conversation about his “bishop.” At Green Ponds, where every creature knew him by sight, he had a narrow escape. The chief-constable, on “special business,” looked in upon him; but Father Blake, with one hand on the farthest door-handle, and the other grasping the butt of a pistol hidden beneath his cassock, met the inquiring gaze unflinchingly. At Bridgewater Father Blake alighted, feeling that to brave the “door of the Ship Inn in Hobart Town, crowded with detectives,” would be madness. He spent the day walking by the river bank, and took passage by the night coach to Hobart Town. In the centre of the town he made the coachman pull up, and walked to Conellan’s house in Collins street where he was met by Nicaragua Smith. After many false starts and dashed hopes, on the 20th July, 1854 John Mitchel finally escapes on board The Emma bound for Sydney and eventually arrives in New York the 29th November, 1853 to a hero’s welcome.

Of course, being a diary, Jail Journal has been written in the first person and even though he refers to others’ views and comments, it is still 100% his perspective…his story. As I read Jail Journal, I found him quite likable. He’s evidently a literary man and wrote beautifully, even if some of his rantings complete with classical allusions and Latin quotes sound hilarious to the modern reader. Moreover, while Mitchel strongly defended Ireland’s freedom, he went on to support the South in the American Civil War and opposed the abolition of slavery. Moreover, while he could well be cast in the same light as Ned Kelly, Australia’s favourite rogue, terrorism is still terrorism. The use of force against innocent people is still a crime.
So, I’m left with mixed views.

On that note, I hope I’ve drawn this to something of a close. I feel like I’ve been wading through thick mud trying to get these details straight. Any corrections and comments will be more welcomed and encouraged.

xx Rowena

References:

[1] John Mitchel, Jail Journal, Sphere Books, 1983, p. 1.

[2] Ibid. pp 4-5.

[3] Ibid pp 301-302.

[4] Ibid, p. 201.

I-Irish Nationalists in Tasmania

Tasmania has its secrets and I’m starting to wonder whether it has more secrets than most.

While its brutal convict heritage is much publicized and has even become a tourist draw card, there are so many surprises once you scratch the beneath the surface. As I’ve mentioned before, the brutal conflict between the indigenous Tasmanian Aborigines and settlers known as the Black Wars was largely forgotten and not even covered up.

Another facet of Tasmania’s history I knew very little about before I met Geoff, was its strong pockets of Irish settlement. There were areas with notably high concentrations of Irish settlers, especially around Westbury, Deloraine and Irish Town. These were towns where names like Murphy, Griffin, Lyons, Burke and O’Sullivan flowed from Irish tongues.

In addition to these settlers and emancipated convicts, Irish political prisoners were also exiled to Van Dieman’s Land.

So, today we’re actually not visiting a place. Rather, we’re jumping into our time machine and turning the clock back somewhere around the 1850s and hooking up with these exiles.

This was a very turbulent time in Irish History. In addition to seeking independence from England, Ireland was struck down by the Great Famine from 1845-1852. During the famine, approximately one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland,[4] causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%.[5]

John Mitchel summed up what it meant for them to be exiled from their beloved Ireland and their cause:

“For the Young Irelanders, “Van Diemen’s Land was punishment heaped upon punishment. An outpost of the British Empire created as a receptacle for British criminals, Van Diemen’s Land was in many ways both socially and culturally ‘A little England’. Mitchel wrote in his Jail Journal that ‘every sight and sound that strikes eye or ear on this mail road, reminds me that I am in a small misshapen, transported, bastard England; and the legitimate England itself is not so dear to me that I can love the convict copy’. For a group of Irish nationalists Van Diemen’s Land was the last place they would choose to waste precious years of their life[1].

In particularly, we’ll be meeting up with John Mitchel and William Smith O’Brien

John Mitchel

Referring to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, we’ll pick up with John Mitchel in Autumn of 1845 when he became assistant editor of the Nation under Charles Gavan Duffy. Meanwhile, he had joined the Repeal Association which, inspired by Daniel O’Connell, campaigned for the peaceable dissolution of the union with England; but he also became associated with the emerging Young Ireland movement, whose militancy and advocacy of physical force were leading to a collision between the older and younger leaders. The first open breach came in 1846 when Mitchel, William Smith O’Brien, Thomas Meagher and others left the Repeal Association; but it was not complete until O’Connell’s death a year later.

In December 1847 Mitchel broke with Duffy and the Nation and in February 1848 launched the United Irishman, a weekly newspaper that soon became the most influential of the organs propagating the militant views of the Young Ireland Movement. As conflict in Ireland sharpened, the authorities decided to take drastic action: habeas corpus was suspended and a new Treason Felony Act received the royal assent; under this new legislation Mitchel, having first been charged with sedition, was sentenced to fourteen years transportation for treason. Soon afterwards the other Young Ireland leaders, O’Brien, Meagher, Patrick O’Donohoe, John Martin, Terence McManus and Kevin Izod O’Doherty, were tried and sentenced for high treason at Clonmel and Dublin, and transported to Van Diemen’s Land. Mitchel was first committed to the hulks in Bermuda, and later sent to the Cape of Good Hope in the Neptune. The colonists refused to allow the ship to berth and, having lain at anchor for five months in Simon’s Bay, she sailed to Van Diemen’s Land and docked at Hobart Town in April 1850.

Mitchel, though the first to be sentenced, was thus the last of the Young Ireland leaders to reach Van Diemen’s Land. He was granted a ticket-of-leave on parole and allowed to share a cottage near Bothwell with John Martin. He was also able to meet O’Doherty and Meagher at Lake Sorell on the borders of their police districts. In May 1851 he went to meet his wife who was believed to be arriving at Launceston. For leaving the district without a pass he was arrested, but soon discharged. His wife Jane and children did not arrive in the brig Union until June, when they joined him at Bothwell. Two years later Mitchel successfully planned and carried through his escape from the island with the help of P. J. Smyth, who had come from New York as correspondent of the New York Tribune for the purpose. Having previously surrendered his parole and ticket-of-leave at Bothwell police station, he made his way to Hobart in June 1853, sailed for Sydney, and thence to Batavia, San Francisco and New York, where he received a hero’s welcome in November.

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mitchel-john-2461http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mitchel-john-2461

Smith O'Brien

William Smith O’Brien.

William Smith O’Brien

When you visit Port Arthur these days, you can still see William Smith O’Brien’s house. As his is a complex story, I’ve left the telling to G. Rudé, from the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

“William Smith O’Brien (1803-1864), Irish nationalist, was born on 17 October 1803 at Dromoland, County Clare, Ireland, the second son of Sir Edward O’Brien, baronet, and Charlotte, née Smith. A Protestant, he was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1826). He represented the Irish borough of Ennis in the unreformed British parliament from 1828 to 1831 and Limerick from 1835 until his exclusion from the Commons in 1849. For long an opponent of Daniel O’Connell, O’Brien joined his Repeal Association in 1843 and soon exercised an authority within it second only to ‘the Liberator’ himself. In the disputes dividing the Irish nationalist leaders in the 1840s O’Brien at first adopted a conciliatory role; and, although he walked out of the association with John Mitchel, Thomas Meagher and other militants in July 1846, he continued to preach reconciliation until O’Connell’s death in May 1847 completed the breach between the advocates of ‘moral’ and ‘physical’ force.”

From this time he appears as the oldest, most experienced and respected, though by no means the most resolute or consistent, of the leaders of the militant Young Ireland or ‘confederate’ groups which, after the February 1848 revolution in Paris, urged the formation of an Irish national guard modelled on the French and a council of three hundred as the nucleus of an Irish national parliament; eventually after John Mitchel’s arrest and condemnation in May 1848 he organized an armed insurrection. It was poorly led, ill equipped and unsupported, and proved abortive. Though O’Brien had long hesitated to engage in armed rebellion and refused to lend his name to the committee of five that directed it, he was recognized as its foremost leader, was arrested in August on a charge of high treason and at Clonmel in October 1848 was sentenced with T. F. Meagher, T. B. McManus and Patrick O’Donohoe to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The sentence was commuted to transportation for life; O’Brien and his principal lieutenants sailed in the Swift to Hobart Town, where they arrived on 27 October 1849. Three of O’Brien’s humbler and lesser-known comrades-in-arms, Thomas Donovan, Thomas Wall and John Walsh, were sentenced at Waterford in July 1850 to seven years transportation for attacking the city’s police barracks under O’Brien’s orders and reached Hobart in the Hyderabad on 13 December 1850; a fourth, Cornelius Keeffe, sentenced at Waterford for a similar offence in March 1849, followed in the Dalhousie on 14 August 1852.

On arrival in Hobart O’Brien at first refused to give his parole in return for a ticket-of-leave and was in consequence denied the privileged treatment afforded to the other Young Ireland leaders. He was sent to Darlington station in the penal settlement of Maria Island; nine months later, after an unsuccessful attempt to escape to the United States in an American whaler, he was transferred to Port Arthur, where he was allowed to live in his own cottage (now a youth hostel). In November 1850 he was persuaded to give his parole, was granted a ticket-of-leave and settled first at New Norfolk and later at Avoca, where he acted as tutor to the children of a local doctor. Returning to New Norfolk he received a conditional pardon in 1854; he sailed for Europe and in Brussels was joined by his wife Lucy, née Gabbett, five sons and two daughters. In May 1856, following the intercession of 140 British parliamentarians, he was granted a free pardon which allowed him to return to Ireland. In 1859 he paid a brief visit to New York and in 1863 to Poland. He died at Bangor, Wales, on 18 June 1864.

However, while these men had been exiled from their homeland, they were embraced and assisted by Tasmania’s tight-knit Irish community. After John Mitchel declared his intention to escape, he stayed with Geoff”s 4th Great Grandfather, William Burke of Westbury who also lent him his horse.

Smith O'Briens Cottage

Smith O’Brien’s Cottage at Port Arthur.

Meanwhile, it’s looking like John Newton, another of Geoff’s 4th Great Grandparents, could well have been serving time as a convict on Maria at the same time Smith O’Brien was there…an interesting connection, which hardly made them best of friends.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back to look at John Mitchel’s Jail Journal and his escape from Van Dieman’s Land to America.

Stay tuned.

xx Rowena

PS I apologise if there are any mistakes and I would appreciate any corrections left in the comments please. I know I’ve only dipped my toe into this very complex subject, but it’s better to have a go, than never try at all.

Sources

[1] http://www.utas.edu.au/young-irelanders/their-story/the-young-irelanders-in-van-diemens-landhttp://www.utas.edu.au/young-irelanders/their-story/the-young-irelanders-in-van-diemens-land

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mitchel-john-2461

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/obrien-william-smith-2516

E- Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania: A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day Five of the A-Z April Challenge.

Despite my best intentions of darting haphazardly across Tasmania in our Alphabetical Tour, so far we’ve been travelling in a fairly direct route.  We started out at Ashgrove Cheese at Elizabeth Town, moved onto Bridport in the North-East, down to Campbell Town and then onto Doo Town on Eaglehawk Neck, South of Hobart near the historic convict prison, Port Arthur.

 

Today, we’re staying close and exploring the broader region of Eaglehawk Neck. Not that Eaglehawk Neck, as its name suggests, is a vast expanse.

The Eaglehawk Neck is a narrow isthmus that connects the Tasman Peninsula with the Forestier Peninsula, and hence to mainland Tasmania. A township settlement in the same region is also called Eaglehawk Neck. Locally known as the Neck, the isthmus itself is around 400 metres (1,300 ft) long and under 30 metres (98 ft) wide at its narrowest point[1].

The area features rugged terrain and several unusual geological formations. These include the Tessellated Pavement, Tasman’s Arch, the Blowhole and the Devil’s Kitchen.

Map Bridport to Eaglehawk Neck

These days when you visit the Neck, you’re immediately struck by its natural beauty and if you hadn’t already heard about the the Dog Line, which was set up to prevent convicts from Port Arthur escaping, you find out about it quick once you visit the area. There’s even a statue.

DSC_2004

A Great Place For Pizza.

However, what I didn’t know about until I started searching old newspapers today, was about Tasmania’s “Black War” and while I had read about the Black Line over the last couple of months, I didn’t really know what it was.

Indeed, I studied Australian History at university and even did my Honours and I hadn’t heard anything about this. I only remember seeing a “video” about the “primitive” Tasmanian Aborigines and how they were so backward they didn’t even fire. This video, not unsurprisingly, failed to mention any of their strengths.

We were also taught that Truganini was the last “full” Tasmanian, and this also appears to be incorrect.
Since I’m obviously no authority on the subject given that I only stumbled on it today, I’m not going to explore this war in further detail here. However, I’ve included a newspaper account from 1886:

EAGLEHAWK NECK, TASMAN’S PENINSULA.

Apart from its picturesqueness, which is of  no mean order, Eaglehawk Neck is mainly memorable as the scene of that gigantic and yet fruitless enterprises ever undertaken by Tasmania, known as the Black War. In the early days of the colony the settlers had experienced but little trouble from the blacks, but as time went on the continued to increase in the number of convicts let loose had its result.. Accustomed to brutality and acts of violence, they repeated them on the unfortunate natives to an incredible extent. Their children were kidnapped, men and women were shot down indiscriminately on the slightest pretext; in fact a blackfellow hunt was looked upon as one of the pastimes of the day. No cruelty was too great to be inflicted on them, and in the words of the ‘historian West, who describes one of the frequent midnight raids “The wounded were brained ; the infant cast into the flames ; the bayonet was driven into the quivering flesh; the social ‘ fire ‘ around which the natives gathered to slumber became before morning their funeral pile.’ This infamous treatment bore its’ fruit. Savage murders were committed in retaliation, the maddened blacks sparing neither friend nor foe in their thirst for revenge; and to such a degree had the war between the two races reached, that Governor Arthur, finding it impossible either to conciliate the blacks or re strain the outrages of the convict element of the populace, determined making that gigantic coup-de-main known as the Black Line. The object of the undertaking was to establish a cordon from one end of the island to the other, and drive the hostile tribes on to what is known as Tasman’s Peninsula, where they would be finally secured. How the plan failed is now a matter of history, but it suffices to say that although there were in all about 3000 persons engaged in maintaining the line, yet the sole result of the expedition was the capture, in an accidental way, of one man, and a boy. Thus ended the Black War of 1830, an undertaking which cost upwards of ‘£50,000. Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1876 – 1889), Saturday 18 September 1886, page 154

Obviously, I’ve uncovered a huge area for further research, which I intend to follow-up soon. My son will also be studying what is now referred to as the invasion of Australia and it would be good to catch up.

Meanwhile, even my very basic gleanings here, remind me of the importance of writing about what we don’t know, don’t understand and use writing as a learning experience. That writing becomes a way of extending ourselves when we break free of that old adage: “write about what you know”and being a very limited expert in your pencil-thin ivory tower.

It’s important to remain curious.

After all, what I’m starting to notice is so-called smart kids, is an unquenchable curiosity with its endless complex questions. There’s a constant quest to find out rather than the “I know”.

Moreover, if we only ever write about what we know, we’ll never grow!

However, we would have well-formulated paragraphs, conclusions and some idea of what we’re writing about. We’d be feeling confident and knowledgeable, in our comfort zones and let’s face it…who likes getting lost, even if it is only in your head or on paper. It feels so much better to know, doesn’t it!!

So, goodness knows what else we’re going to find on this somewhat crazy Alphabetical Journey Around Tasmania. Bring it on!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Further Reading:

http://theconversation.com/tasmanias-black-war-a-tragic-case-of-lest-we-remember-25663

http://theconversation.com/noted-works-the-black-war-29344

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Warhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_War

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eaglehawk_Neckhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eaglehawk_Neckhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eaglehawk_Neck