Tag Archives: convicts

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.

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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

C- Convict Brick Trail, Campbell Town. ..A-Z April Challenge.

Welcome to Day Three of the Blogging A to Z Challenge.

As you may be aware, we’re Travelling Around Tasmania Alphabetically during April, which could involve some very interesting twists and turns and I’ll somehow have to draw our path on a map at the end of the month. I’m expecting it to resemble a spider’s web with threads darting all over the place. After all, we’re hardly travelling for economy, are we?!!

Today, we’re heading South from Bridport in the North-East to Campbell Town, which is in the Midlands region. However, before we reach Campbell Town, we’ll be driving via Scottsdale and into Launceston via the notorious Sidling Range, where the government hasn’t straightened out the vicious hair-pin bends or even installed guard rails. Although the famed Targa Tasmania Rally goes through the Sidling (with the locals watching out with great expectations of doom, gloom and action-packed crashes), most of us try not to eat before tackling this road. It’s seriously rough and you don’t want those Cornish Pasties going to waste!

While mere mortals and Mainlanders quiver and shake at the prospect of tackling the Sidling and usually take an alternate route, my husband’s face lights up glowing like a neon sign. He might’ve moved to the Mainland 30 years ago, but every single one of those hazardous twists and turns has been tattooed into his muscle-memory…not that I’m about to suggest he tackles the road blind-folded. Our car might be able to fly. However, landing equipment was NOT included.

Anyway, after surviving the Sidling, we’re clipping the outskirts of “Lonnie” (Launceston- pronounced Lonnceston in “Tasmanian”) and heading South.

Our claim to Campbell Town fame,  is Geoff’s third Great Grandfather, James Newton, who scored himself a brick on the Convict Brick Trail, which is dedicated to some of the nearly 200,000 convicts who were transported to Australia for almost 100 years from 1788 onwards. It runs along the footpath on High Street, commencing outside the historic premises known as the Fox Hunters Return, which is adjacent to the Red Bridge. It extends into the CBD on the western side and to the IGA Supermarket on the eastern side.

Obviously, this trail is rather different to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and could well be renamed the Campbell Town Walk of Infamy. Well, not exactly. Most of these convicts passed well under the radar.

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In my element at the Book Cellar, located opposite the Red Bridge.

While we’re in Campbell Town, I recommend you visit the Book Cellar located in the historic Fox Hunters Return, an 1830’s coaching inn. Being a self-confessed book-aholic, I had a field day in this place. I managed to pick up a book which had reprinted the writings’s of Geoff’s Great Great Uncle, Daniel Griffin who was a journalist. His writings included a series on the local history, which included quite a lot of family details. There was also a book about the history of Scottsdale, which included photos of a couple of my husband’s school teachers. That was another must have. Lastly, I picked up a Tasmanian school cookbook and plan to make Jelly Slice sometime. I’ve never seen it outside Tassie.

Before leaving picturesque Campbell Town, I’ll let you into a local traveller’s secret. Campbell Town has a public toilet which remains open 24 hours.

Well, you might laugh at the mention of that. However, Tasmania isn’t New York and the city which never sleeps. Tasmania closes at 5.00 PM on the dot other than the local take ways and you’ll find they’re generally shut by 7.00PM. We ended up ordering many counter meals at the local pub and yes, we were very thankful to find this toilet at about 10.00 PM.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our visit to Campbell Town and feel free to hang around and have a look. There’s so much to see!

xx Rowena

PS Here’s a link to a more comprehensive port I wrote about Campbell Town while we were down there back in January: Campbell Town.

Family Portrait Port Arthur.

This wall at Port Arthur’s Government Cottage was just begging to become a screen, a backdrop for a family photo. This moody mix of light and shadow across convict-made bricks, was photographic magic. I rounded up the family and photographed their hand shadows on a wall .

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That is after testing it first.

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Doesn’t this remind those old family and school movie projectors and making rabbis on the screen? Or, is it just me?

xx Rowena

 

William Smith O’Brien…An Irish Rebel at Port Arthur.

You could well be excused for not knowing that Irish nationalist William Smith O’Brien once “lived” at Port Arthur. While Australian convict folklore says that convicts were sent to Australia for “stealing a loaf of bread”, a number of Irish political  rebels were also transported to Van Dieman’s Land, as Tasmania was once known. This included William Smith O’Brien who lived in a separate cottage at Port Arthur, which is still standing.

William Smith OBriens House.JPG

Rewinding to Ireland 1848 on what is going to be a supersonic visit, Ireland was under English rule and in the grip of an unprecedented famine due to repeated failure of the potato crop, which in parts of the country, was their only crop. An 1848 uprising in Paris, inspired Younger Irelanders, led by William Smith O’Brien, to stage a rebellion.

The Young Irelander Rebellion was a failed Irish nationalist uprising led by the Young Ireland movement, part of the wider Revolutions of 1848 that affected most of Europe. It took place on 29 July 1848 in the village of Ballingarry, South Tipperary. After being chased by a force of Young Irelanders and their supporters, an Irish Constabulary unit raided a house and took those inside as hostages. A several-hour gunfight followed, but the rebels fled after a large group of police reinforcements arrived.It is sometimes called the Famine Rebellion (since it took place during the Great Irish Famine) or the Battle of Ballingarry.

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William Smith O’Brien was convicted and sentenced to death for his part in the rebellion of 1848, but his sentence was later commuted to transportation to the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). Earl Grey, the Colonial Secretary, had decided that the best policy in regard to the Young Ireland prisoners was to consign them to gentlemanly oblivion. Sir William Denison, the governor, would have preferred to treat them as convicts. However, he was obliged to offer O’Brien a ticket-of-leave.
Initially O’Brien refused because of the condition attached which would have prevented him attempting to escape. So while his fellow-revolutionaries, Patrick O’Donohoe, Thomas Meagher and Terence MacManus, were immediately set at large, O’Brien was sent on to Maria Island, the most remote outpost of the penal settlement. An attempt at escape was bungled and he was, in August 1850, transferred to Port Arthur.

This article appeared in the Tasmanian press at the time:

“SMITH O’BRIEN.

This gentleman is now confined in the penal settlement of Port Arthur. He lives in a small cottage consisting of three or four apartments,—his rations are supplied by government,
and consist of a limited quantity of tea, sugar, bread, and meat. He is permitted to walk in a paddock adjoining his place of abode, constantly watched by a military sentry who
keeps within 20 paces of him. He is locked up from sun-set to sun-rise.

Thus lingers an Irish Patriot, the descendant of princes, whose life was spent in acts of virtue.”

The Irish Exile and Freedom’s Advocate (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1850 – 1851) Saturday 21 September 1850 p 3 Article

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.
Although we didn’t have time to even walk past Smith O’Brien’s Cottage, I’ve included him in my tour of Port Arthur because other branches of Geoff’s family were involved in helping another Irish political prisoner, John Mitchel escape. Geoff’s 4th Great Grandfather was Daniel Burke who was mentioned in John Mitchel’s account of his time in Tasmania: Jail Journal.
I hope that supersonic trip hasn’t glossed over too many details and recommend further reading. This post has been written more an an entre, rather than providing a comprehensive account. Otherwise, this blog is never going to leave Tasmania and make it home.
xx Rowena

 Sources

Government Cottage, Port Arthur.

Usually, when you see before and after shots, there’s been some kind of miraculous make-over, renovation or transformation. WOW! You’re absolutely blown away by all the amazing improvements and you can barely recognise the clapped out wreck.

However, sometimes you can’t put all the pieces back together again, but there’s a different kind of beauty in the wreckage…a stoic timelessness, a strange kind of strength. At the very least, these crumbling wrecks can make poignant, photographic works of art.

Indeed, these crumbling brick walls were very photogenic indeed. That’s right. My eyes were out on stalks, heart palpitating. It was love at first sight!

Indeed, I even found my initials carved into the brick.

xx Rowena

Up the Garden Path, Port Arthur.

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Although I’d never heard about the stunning gardens at Port Arthur before our visit, I was happily led up the garden path. Indeed, the gardens were a serious, botanical feast…especially for a brown-thumbed sod like myself unable to convert our sandy soil into a floral paradise.

It’s hard to comprehend that stunning, specialist gardens were growing in such a brutal, violent penal settlement. However, line most things, one thing led to another.

In 1849, several scientific groups joined together to form the Royal Society of Tasmania for Horticulture, Botany and the Advance of Science, the first Royal Society outside of Britain. Members had connections with Kew Gardens and other nurseries. This society  took responsibility for managing Hobart’s Government Gardens, later to become the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
Among Royal Society members were numerous Port Arthur administrators and officials including Commandants William Champ and James Boyd. Many plants were ordered from England. Cuttings, tubers, corms, rootstock and seeds were also collected by plant enthusiasts on the eight-month journey to Van Diemen’s Land. The genes of some of Port Arthur’s plants map the ports of call in South America, South Africa and India. Boyd alone ordered hundreds of plants, including dahlias, marjoram and fruit trees.

 

As early as the 1830s ornamental trees were planted at Port Arthur. By 1838 the avenue leading to the Church from Tarleton Street was lined with young trees provided by the Governor of the day, Sir John Franklin. In 1846-47, Commandant Champ developed Government Gardens as an ornamental garden primarily for the enjoyment of the ladies of the settlement. The gardens were much admired and reached their peak in the late 1860-70s. After the closure of Port Arthur the gardens were neglected until reconstruction began in the 1990’s.

‘The usual afternoon walk was to be Government Cottage Garden where the officers’ wives, their children and nursemaids used to assemble. They were charming gardens. Lovely green lawns and gay flower beds – even a fountain in the centre – all beautifully kept.’

E.M. Hall, 1871-7.

 

The plants at Port Arthur have been catologued and their stories reproduced in a stunning online catalogue. I found it rather intriguing to read how seeds, cuttings and bulbs from exotic species found in Britain, India, South Africa and more arrived onboard ships in Tasmania, finding their way into the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hobart as well as these gardens in Port Arthur.
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I might not know the botanic name for this rose but I did manage to photograph it. I could curl deep inside and wrap myself up in that petal swirl.

These days it is impossible to conceive the trafficking of plant materials across international borders when you can’t even bring plants, fruits and a swag of other items into Tasmania from the Australian Mainland…at least, not as your average Joe. Quarantine is very important in Australia and Tasmania in order to keep out exotic diseases and  pests.

“Port Arthur is beginning to look springlike. The oak trees are bursting into leaf and there is a profusion of bulbs in bloom in the paddocks which at one time were old gardens.”

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Thursday 30 August 1934 p 5.

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Anyway, I thought I’d share a few stories about the various plants at Port Arthur.

Quercus robur (English oak, common oak)

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The trees that surround Government Gardens and line the avenue up to the Church are mostly English oaks. This is the most common forest tree in Britain.

The botanic name robur means ‘strength’ in Latin, and refers to the hard timber for which the trees have been valued since prehistoric times. Sir John Franklin, the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land from 1836-43, provided the Port Arthur Penal Settlement with young oak, ash and elm trees, some of which may survive today. Deciduous European trees were some of the earliest brought to the new colony, bringing a sense of comfort and familiarity in an otherwise foreign landscape.

Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove)

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A native to western and south western Europe, including the British Isles. Commandant Champ wrote a letter to his mother requesting her to collect the seeds of wild flowers when walking in the woods and send them to him.

 

Lupinus polyphyllus   (garden lupin)

This plant was discovered in the north-west of North America in the 1820s by Mr David Douglas, who also introduced the Douglas fir to Europe.

Seeds of ‘blue and yellow lupins various’ were being advertised for sale by Mrs Wood in the Hobart Town Courier by November 1829:

‘This splendid lupine is now become so common that we can hardly conceive how gardens must have looked without it, though it is not yet quite twenty years that seeds of it were first sent to this country…’

Melianthus major (honey flower)

A common plant in colonial gardens, Melianthus would have been admired for its unusual leaves and growth habit, as well as for its large red flower spikes, unlike any plant found in traditional English gardens. It is native to South Africa, and was collected by sailing vessels on their way from England to the Australian colonies and other trading ports.

Myosotis sylvatica (forget-me-not)

The forget-me-not is so common in Tasmanian gardens that many people consider it weedy and tend to pull it out. A common flower in woodlands throughout Britain and Europe, this would have been one of the early introductions to the gardens in Port Arthur.

The following poem appeared in an April edition of the Launceston Courier in 1829, and captures the sentimentality that people at this time had for the forget-me-not:

There is a flow’r I love so well

That grows within my garden plot

My willing pen its name shall tell

The lovely blue ‘forget-me-not’

‘Tis not within the rich man’s hall,

But near the honest peasant’s cot,

Where grows the lovely flow’r, we call,

The modest blue ‘forget-me-not’.

It does not boast a rich perfume,

The rose-bud’s glory ‘t has not got;

It does not want a warmer bloom,

The brilliant blue ‘forget-me-not’

Through life I’ve lov’d this simple flow’r

Nor ever be its name forgot

In prosp’rous time or adverse hour

The humble blue ‘forget-me-not’

And should I die an early doom

Let no false tear my mem’ry blot;

But let there spring around my tomb,

The azure blue ‘forget-me-not’

Salix babylonica (weeping willow)

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Weeping Willow at Port Arthur 2017.

The weeping willows that once grew in this garden, and in many other sites throughout Australia and Britain, were taken as cuttings from a tree growing on the grave of Napoleon Bonaparte on the island of St Helena. A quick growing shade tree popular  for ornamental plantings, willows have also traditionally been used medicinally and for basketry.

In 1845, the Commandant of Port Arthur investigated which Tasman Peninsula outstations had suitable conditions to plant willows for basket-making, and supplied these with cuttings from his own garden.

Rosa chinensis (China rose)

China roses were introduced into the west towards the end of the 18th century, and enabled the many cultivars of rose available today to be developed. China roses have the quality of repeat flowering, although they bloom most heavily in the spring.

The roses growing in Government Gardens include ‘La Marque’, a variety released in 1830 with large, fragrant, white flowers.

Solanum aviculare  (kangaroo apple)

Thomas Lempriere, the Commissariat Officer at Port Arthur from 1833-48, wrote in his journal about the culinary value of various native plants. He stated: ‘the Solanum…or kangaroo apple, is a very handsome plant and the fruits, when perfectly ripe, pleasant to the taste’. –1838

In 1828 the kangaroo apple was featured in an  article in the Hobart Town Courier, which commented:

‘…we have had occasion, this season particularly, to remark the great luxuriance of what is called the Kangaroo apple, or New Zealand potato, a species of Solanum common to this country and New Zealand… a beautiful evergreen shrub, with dark verdant leaves… It is covered with small round apples, which when ripe eat exactly like bananas, and a sort of yams grow at its root, it is both ornamental and useful.’

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed our meanders through the gardens at Port Arthur. Adding a few details to my photographs, has become quite a long and interesting journey, even for this serial plant killer.

If you’d like to check out the Port Arthur Gardens’ Plant Guide, please click: here.

xx Rowena

Harbour Cruise, Port Arthur, Tasmania.

In hindsight, I don’t know how we could’ve allowed so little time to explore Port Arthur. Once we’d arrived and seen that our entry passes were valid for two days, it became immediately obvious that we’d seriously under-estimated the time to do it properly. Now that we’re home and goodness knows when we’ll get back, I have my regrets. Yet, at the same time, you can only absorb so much history in three weeks. Indeed, you can’t absorb all of Tasmania in 3 weeks either, especially when you’re scratching beneath the surface. Moreover, with Geoff being Tasmanian, we also had a lot of friends and family to catch up with …and there was so much catching up to do!

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So, when it came to doing the harbour cruise at Port Arthur, we had to stay on board without getting off to explore the Isle of the Dead of Point Puer. I don’t like missing out. However, we missed out on so much in the end that we’ll be back sooner rather than later.

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So, this is but a very brief photographic tour accompanied by a very simple footnote.

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This photo was taken about 15 years after James Newton arrived, giving a fairly good idea of what it looked like when he arrived.

As we pulled out of Port Arthur on the ferry and the expanse of water between use and the prison ruins expanded, I thought about how Geoff’s 3rd Great Grandfather, James Newton, would’ve felt as his ship sailed into Port Arthur. Coming from notorious Norfolk Island, he’d been initiated into the cruel hardship of the convict system. Yet, was there still that sense of dread? Or, was the relief or even hope that it might be better there? I don’t know. He obviously didn’t send us a postcard: “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here!”

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Like so much of Port Arthur, the harbour cruise was very scenic, relaxing and you really had to remind yourself that this place was hell on earth. Not only for the convicts, but also for the victims of the Port Arthur Massacre, their families, service personnel and locals. It has such stunning natural beauty, that it’s too easy to forget.

So, we hope you’ll be able to get down to Port Arthur sometime and experience the cruise yourself (along with everything else!!)

xx Rowena