Tag Archives: Hobart

Babushka…Friday Fictioneers.

Before Grandma’s body had even turned cold, the aunts, uncles, cousins, and even my own father were all out in the backyard digging, searching for Grandma’s buried treasure. A fanciful storyteller, all my life she’d spun wondrous tales of the Romanov’s and Russian royalty. Yet, that didn’t correlate with the woman working at the Hobart Jam Factory.  Of course, she was Russian. Her accent was straight out of a Bond movie, but Russian royalty? Then, the spade hit metal and Dad unearthed a metal box.  She might not have been Anastasia, but her grandfather had been her killer.

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Connie Gayer. BTW Babushka means grandmother in Russian.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Y- Yachts…The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Welcome to the second last day of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

We’ve almost made it to the end of our journey, which is a good thing because the next leg is going to be precarious, pitted against the elements and there are no guarantees we’re going to make it.

That’s because we’re going on the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Actually, hold that thought.

We’re not sailing anywhere. Rather, we’re driving from the Don River Railway near Devonport to Constitution Dock in Hobart to check out some yachts.

Don River to Hobart

The Beginnings of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

While we’re on the way, I thought you might appreciate a brief history of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

It’s an annual event hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney, New South Wales on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. The race distance is approximately 630 nautical miles (1,170 km).[1] The race is run in co-operation with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, and is widely considered to be one of the most difficult yacht races in the world.[2] The race was initially planned to be a cruise by Peter Luke and some friends who had formed a club for those who enjoyed cruising as opposed to racing, however when a visiting British Royal Navy Officer, Captain John Illingworth, suggested it be made a race, the event was born. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has grown over the decades, since the inaugural race in 1945, to become one of the top three offshore yacht races in the world, and it now attracts maxi yachts from all around the globe – Wikipaedia.

1024px-Sydney_to_hobart_yacht_race_route

Map Showing the Route of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

I also thought you might enjoy this report on the first race held in 1945, which gives a good insight into the challenges of the race:

THE YACHT RACE. SYDNEY TO HOBART.

Six Complete the Course. HOBART, Jan 3.-

After crossing over 600 miles of ocean and encountering gales and heavy seas. the yacht Ambermerle ran aground in the River Derwent today, about 1½ miles from the finishing line of the Sydney-Hobart race. She was refloated after about half an hour and completed the course to get second place on corrected time by 41 minutes. Other boats which finished today were Kathleen, Horizon and Mistral. Six yachts have now completed the course, those which have not finished being Salt Air and the Wayfarer. They were not sighted yesterday.

The Hobart yacht Winston Churchill, which arrived at Hobart at 6.38 pm yesterday came in second. 17 hours behind the Sydney yacht Rani, which won.The Rani finished at 1.22 am yesterday. The Winston Churchill completed the 635 miles in 176 hours 38 minutes 5 seconds and on corrected time was 29 hours 42 minutes behind the Rani The Winston Churchill’s skipper was Mr P. Coverdale. Horizon, Kathleen, Ambermerle and Mistral, which entered the Derwent this morning, were engaged all day in a battle against a stiff northerly wind which at times reached 50 miles an hour and whipped the water into foam.

When Kathleen rounded Derwent Light at 11 am Horizon was off Crayfish Point, four miles from Hobart and Ambermerle was off Brown’s River, 11 miles from Hobart. Ban for Shelter. Horizon ripped her mainsail and had to run for shelter into D’Entrecasteaux Channel. She was followed by Mistral, which was mak ing little headway. Ambermerle then took the lead, with Kathleen next. When Horizon turned back down the river she gave away what chance she had of getting second, which place she would have filled had she finished before 1 pm. Kathleen made good progress up the river and passed Ambermerle to cross the line third.

Ambermerle, which was under jury rig, with balloon jib and storm tri sail set, appeared to be making slow progress beating along the Sandy Bay shore. She misstayed when going about and ran aground on Red Chapel beach, about 1 miles from the finishing line. She was refloated after about half an hour and continued to the finishing line.

While she was aground she was passed by Horizon. Mr J. Alderton, helmsman of the Ambermerle, said that the trip was practically uneventful until nearing the entrance to the Derwent, when the jib and mainsail were blown out She continued from there under jury rig. The boat behaved well in the storm which struck the yachts on the second day out from Sydney. Ambermerle was hove to for a night off One Tree Point on the south coast of New South Wales and for half a day when off Bermagui.

Missing for Five Days.

The Horizon, which was sighted yesterday after having been reported missing for five days, was cheered as she crossed the finishing line. The skipper, Mr J. Bartlett, of Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, expressed surprise that there should have been any misgivings regarding the safety of the boat. The inability of the Catalina to sight the yacht, he thought, was due to the wide seaward course taken. When the fierce southerly gale scattered the yachts, he said, waves 14 to 15 feet high barred any possibility of progress. The Horizon was hove to for 24 hours. Seas broke over her, but she did not ship any water.

The Kathleen was hove to in a southerly gale off the New South Wales coast on the second day out and was becalmed off Twofold Bay on the third day. She had a good wind across Bass Strait, but was again becalmed off the Tasmanian coast.

West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), Friday 4 January 1946, page 8

Hobart-Wharfcrayfishboat.jpg

Humph…This is not a yacht. Constitution Dock 2005.

Anyway, we’ve now arrived at Constitution Dock. However, it appears there aren’t any yachts in town. I guess that’s what happens when you turn up at the end of April well in Autumn. Indeed, htere weren’t any yachts there on my last two9 visits. So, I hope you like photos of fishing boats!

DSC_1498

This isn’t a yacht either. Yet, another fishing boat parked at Constitution Dock, 2017.


 

This raises another difficulty facing travel writers. While it’s all very well to travel spontaneously without a plan, that doesn’t work when you’re wanting to capture something specific. You need to be there at the right time and if you’re wanting to capture the arrival of the Sydney to Hobart fleet, you need to be there in December after December 27 through to early January. We were in Hobart on the 20th-21st January and as you can see, there wasn’t a yacht in sight.

So, I had to cheat.

wild oats

Here’s the former Sydney to Hobart winner Wild Oats something or other moored in Newport, Sydney. Not quite the same as photographing the end of the race or an actual yacht in full sail but at this stage, I’m just looking for a yacht.

Do you enjoy sailing? Our son is a member of the local sailing club and has been racing a small yacht called an Optimus, something I’m sure they picked up at our local Bunnings Hardware store, because it looks just like a bathtub to me. My Dad inspired the sailing bug in the family. He sails a Catalina…a real step up from our Laser.

I hope you’re looking forward to our last stop! Stay tuned!

xx Rowena

 

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

 

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.

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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.

Not Quite “Hobart”.

As you might be aware, our family has been spending three weeks travelling through Tasmania. While the kids and I are “Mainlanders”, my husband was born and bred in Scottsdale on the North-East and we’ve been on a bit of a “Tasmanian Odyssey” exploring his old stomping grounds. Naturally, we felt seeing where Daddy came from was important. However, it’s turned out, that we’ve also been getting to know more about their grandfather as well as meeting extended family.

This brings me to the latest stop on our journey…Hobart.

Although Hobart is Tasmania’s capital city, Geoff hasn’t spent much time there. Scottsdale is closer to Launceston in the North and most of the time, there was no need to go there.

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I haven’t mentioned this previously, but historically speaking, Tasmania has been divided into three distinct regions: North, South and North-West with a particularly strong rivalry between North and South. Indeed, there was an unofficial border between the two around Oatlands. Basically what I’ve been told, is that the settlers in the North tended to be free settlers, rather than convicts and stuck together. I’ve also heard a bit of derogatory talk about inbreeding in the North while I was in Hobart. By the way, this divide even extended to beer. Northerners drank Boags and in the South, it was Cascade. Not sure how much of this has changed since Geoff left 30 years ago.

For better or worse, our plans for Hobart were rather derailed. Although we’d planned to drive down to the former convict settlement, Port Arthur; it was pouring with rain. So, we decided to head off to MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) and have an indoor museum day instead. However, unfortunately Mona Foma, their  festival of music and art was on and out of our price range.

So, on our first day in Hobart, Port Arthur and MONA had been scratched off the list. Now, we were off to the Cascades Female Factory Site. As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men.

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Putting it very simply, the World Heritage Listed  Cascades Female Factory Historic Site was where female convicts were housed. They could be assigned from there to settlers but after arriving in Hobart Town, they’d do the “walk of shame” through town to the prison. Naturally, the prison wasn’t built for comfort and regularly flooded. It is located in the shadow of Mt Wellington, which can get covered in snow during winter. Therefore, the winds blowing through the prison were freezing. Women were frequently raped both as convicts within the jail, but also as assigned servants. Inevitably children were born within the jail and many of these inevitably died.  It was obviously very sobering to hear how these women lived and I was relieved that none of Geoff’s ancestors to date, were inmates here. We really enjoyed the tour and found it highly informative and the story was very well told. We’d highly recommend you visit.

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The creek which flooded the Female Factory.

We were quite hungry by the time the tour ended. So, we drove into the centre of Hobart for lunch.

If you’re an architecture buff, you’ll love Hobart. Unlike Sydney where much of its early architecture has been bulldozed, much of Hobart’s Georgian architecture  still shines. Indeed, walking around Hobart feels like you’re stepping back in time and you’ve just stepped off a Tall Ship in Constitution Dock into Hobart Town.

Anyway, it didn’t take long for the sands to run through the hour glass. Unfortunately, we missed the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

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Yet, the night was still young. Consequently, we found ourselves visiting Mawson’s Hut, which was still open. I really should be going into this in more detail as well. However, I am travelling and exploring so many places, foods and people, that it’s impossible to go into it all now. Suffice to say that when Mawson and his crew went on their historic expedition to Antarctica, they sailed out of Hobart and there’s quite a sense of connection with the expedition and Hobart. I am intending to read more about Mawson’s expedition and am so inspired by his grit and determination in such hostile conditions…along with the rest of the men. Their experience makes me wonder whether we have it too easy. That we need to toughen up.

While we were wandering around, we also stumbled across the Franko Food Markets in Franklin Square. This market features up and coming food producers and their products must use ingredients which come straight from the farm to the market. It’s a fantastic concept. While we were initially drawn to sour dough mini donut balls served with a very yummy chocolate sauce, we also had home made pork buns made from their own pork and a Dutch pasty  filled with beef and mushrooms and something else. It was so yum! I also really enjoyed chatting to the stallholders and hearing their stories…establishing  a personal connection. Such a shame these markets are in Hobart and are such a long way from home. Otherwise, I’d be there every Friday night.

Saturday morning, we headed off to Salamanka Markets before meeting up with Geoff’s second cousin we’d never met at the Tasmanian Museum cafe.

Given how much Geoff and the kids have complained about going shopping or to markets in the past, I didn’t allow for long at Salamanka and we were only there for about 2 hours. I think that was long enough. Although we didn’t get to see everything, we’re on a budget and we have very little space left in the car.

At the same time, I really wanted to buy myself something special there. Something I could look at and think Hobart, our 2017 trip to Tassie and feel all warm and gooey inside.

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It took awhile for me to find that something but in the end I bought a CD. I’ve buried it deep in our luggage at the moment. The guy was playing the Chapman stick or “the stick”. Being a violinist myself, this amazing string instrument really played my heart strings. Have you ever heard it?

After farewelling Geoff’s cousin, we walked around Constitution Dock. This is the finish line for the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. The yachts were long gone by the time we turned up, but I have always loved the historical buildings at Constitution Dock. We were admiring these when I strayed across a plaque saying that the women from The Beulah were housed at the building now known as a seafood restaurant, The Drunken Admiral. Geoff’s 3rd Great Grandmother was a famine orphan sent out to Australia onboard The Beulah so this was a great find.

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With much of Hobart now closed, we drove up Mt Wellington. We seemed to be driving round and round and round. This is a serious mountain, at least by mainland standards where much of the country is “pancake”. By the time we reached the summit, the trees were twisted and gnarled from the rugged conditions and the ground was covered in rocks. It was freezing up there, even in Summer. Couldn’t imagine the Winter chill.

Unfortunately, our list of what we didn’t see in Hobart way exceeded all we did. Moreover, what we saw was perhaps a bit off track but it was our Hobart.

Have you been to Hobart? Please share your thoughts and add links to any posts.

Xx Rowena