Tag Archives: Port Arthur

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

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

Weekend Coffee Share… 5th February, 2017

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you’ve had a great week.

Tonight, I’m encouraging  you to join me for a taste of Tasmania. I’m currently savouring Ashgrove Farm’s Lavender Cheese on crackers and sipping on a bottle of Spreyton’s Hard Ginger Beer. Neither of these delicacies are available locally but given the number of locals visiting Tasmania, I can see them being trafficked back. However, if things get desperate, I can get the Lavender cheese posted up. Meanwhile, I’ll just have to feast on their Wasabi cheese. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

It’s great to finally catch up with you again.

Last weekend, we returned from 3 weeks’ holiday in Tasmania. While I had no intention of writing away our holiday, I was hoping to upload more to the blog. However, we had woeful Internet access. Indeed, my mobile phone was even out of action most of the time. So, I’m frantically trying to post about our holiday so I can finally make it home on the blog. We’re currently driving back from Port Arthur to Devonport in blog time although we’ve now  been back for a week.

Last Monday, was what I call the start of the real New Year. That’s when the kids go back to school after the long Summer break and when all those resolutions really come home to roost. Of course, we’re supposed to be 200% organized for the new school year with their uniforms all clean and pressed, shoes together all brand spanking new,  and pens, papers, bags, lunches all ready to roll.

You know the drill.

However, it looks like we’ll be winging the return to school. The Spirit of Tasmania pulled into Melbourne at 6.00AM Saturday. This was followed by the long drive back home and we arrived home at about 7.00PM with one day to hope and pray we’d be ready for school.

Fortunately, we passed muster.

Since getting back from Tasmania, I’ve slowly been blogging about the trip. This has involved a lot of background research, especially about the World Heritage Listed Port Arthur Convict Site. Unfortunately, we only had half a day at Port Arthur. Although I’ve been there before, it was nowhere near long enough. The research was very enlightening and it better not be another 20 years before I get back.

Port Arthur…A Family Relic.

Harbour Cruise, Port Arthur.

The Chapel, Port Arthur

The Chaplain’s Voice 1870-1876

Up The Garden Path

Government Cottage

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

I hope you get a chance to join me on our travels around Tasmania. It really is paradise.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at  Part-Time Monster.

xx Rowena

Whatsitsname Beach, Tasmania

After leaving Port Arthur, I spotted this stunning beach out the window and Geoff obediently stopped. If you haven’t worked it out by now, we’ve been having so many photo stops on this holiday, that I’m lucky there hasn’t been a photography ban…or worse.

Personally, this beach seems so untouched, a kind of seaside wilderness. The sort of place you could runaway to, even in the middle of Summer, and bask in solitude…Tranquility Bay.

xx Rowena

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.

william-smith-obriens-house-historic

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.
dsc_2503

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.

cottage-garden

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

The Chaplain’s Voice, Port Arthur, Tasmania 1870-1877.

If you have been following my steps around the convict ruins at Tasmania’s Port Arthur, you’ll appreciate my efforts to gain some insight into what it meant to be a convict there, especially as Geoff’s 3rd Great Grandfather was a prisoner there.

While researching the Chapel in my previous post, I stumbled across this newspaper story covering a talk given by Rev. Rowland Hayward recounting his experience as Chaplain of the Port Arthur Settlement during 1870-77.

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Preacher at Port Arthur.

“At the Church of England Institute on Wednesday night the Rev. Rowland Hayward recounted his experience as Chaplain of the Port Arthur Settlement during 1870-77.

The Rev. F. S. Poole was in the chair, and the attendance was large. The lecturer prefaced his remarks by a review of the earlier history of the location of the prisoners at Macquarie, which, owing to its inhospitable character and difficulties of communication, was abandoned in favour of Port Arthur in 1835. In a little time this place became the most systematized of all British convict settlements.

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Convict Leg Irons on Display at the Chaplain’s Cottage.

Mr. Hayward was on the spot when the appointment was offered to him, having gone there for the sake of his health. With the duties of Chaplain, however, he combined Magisterial functions, but the dual capacity was embarrassing, as in his character of Chaplain he had often to soothe the wounds which he was bound to inflict as Magistrate. The manner in which he exercised the obligations of the latter, however, won over the convicts, who frequently refused to be tried by any other official than the Chaplain, as they had grown to fear the severity of the local officers, whom years of familiarity with the men and the conditions of their life had necessarily robbed of leniency or sympathy.

The natural beauties of the harbour and the station were painted by the lecturer, whose description, the audience were assured, was truthful, and opposed to the gloomy picture of both drawn by Marcus Clarke. The penitentiary was described, and although designed to accommodate as many as 600 prisoners during Mr. Hayward’s incumbency, the number of its inmates never exceeded 300.

A particular account of the institution was given, as also of the separate prison for refractory prisoners, who underwent in former days the refined cruelty of solitary imprisonment for an unlimited period. Here every prisoner immediately on his transportation suffered solitary confinement a month for each year of his term. Barbarous Mr. Hayward regarded this mode of punishment, although it was in substitution of the more brutal flogging, which was often administered in plenty for the most trivial offences.

At the same time, Mr. Hayward believed that in some cases a ” schoolboy flogging” would have rescued some unfortunate lads in the penitentiary from more serious mental and physical injury which were traceable to solitary confinement.

Referring to “The Term of His Natural Life,” the lecturer did not regard the work as exaggerated, but the horrors portrayed by it were rather an accumulation of all the atrocities that might have happened in connection with criminal life in Australia than a faithful account of the ordinary life at Port Arthur.

The lecture was freely interlarded with anecdotes, chiefly concerning two truculent ruffians named Mark Jeffries and Pat O’Hearn, who were a source of great trouble to the prison authorities.

The prison discipline was described, with its comprehensive system of supervision, including the plan of keeping dogs at Eaglehawk Neck to prevent the escape of the prisoners.

Altogether Mr. Hayward considered that provisions made for the bodily wants of the convicts were very generous, they being at least better cared for than the honest poor of the island. The lecturer spoke of his connection with Port Arthur as one of the happiest periods of his life. When asked his opinion by the Government as to the advisability of abolishing Port Arthur he was strongly opposed to the proposal, believing that the settlement offered to convicts the best opportunities of reformation. During the lecture, which lasted for two hours, there was an intermission devoted to music.

Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 – 1912) Tuesday 6 July 1886 p 3 Article

xx Rowena