Tag Archives: Tasmanian History

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

 

R- Ross & Richmond Bridges, Tasmania.

Welcome to Day 17 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

My sincere apologies for waking us up before the birds again this morning. There’s coffees all round and then we’re off.

Map Queenstown to Ross

We have another long drive today. We’ll be driving 270 km from Queenstown and heading East to Ross Bridge on the Macquarie River where we’ll be having Scallop Pie for lunch. Then, we’ll be driving South to the Richmond Bridge, 25 kilometres North of Hobart where we’ll be sleeping tonight. As we’ve already been to the Red Bridge in Campbell Town, I won’t confuse you by taking you to three historic bridges in one day. That is, as much as I love squeezing the carpe out of the diem.

Preparing this post has highlighted a swag of difficulties confronting the travel writer. Not that I’m a travel writer per se. However, I travel, I write and probably more importantly, I produce quality photos, using a digital SLR and not a frigging phone!

Although I haven’t considered this before, perhaps the problems with travel writing are inherent from the start. As a traveller, you lack that local knowledge and could easily get all sorts of facts wrong. Or, produce an account no more interesting than a shopping list you’re ticking off before you move onto the next place. Ideally, if you’re covering a place as large and yet as small as Tasmania, you can also draw on multiple visits to expand your scope. I’ve certainly been doing that on our Alphabetical Tour of Tasmania. Another difficulty I’ve faced as a travel photographer, is trying to capture the landscape at its peak when you haven’t got time to lie in wait for the perfect weather, lighting, timing, composition, angle. You can bump up your chances, but you get what you get and just hope to bump up the second rate stuff when you get home. That said, dramatic storm clouds and rain, can create incredible moods. The landscape doesn’t have to be all sun and blue sky.

Finally, that brings me to my difficulties putting together this piece on the Ross and Richmond bridges. Although they’re both convict-built, sandstone bridges, they actually do look quite different to each other and you certainly couldn’t pass one off as the other anywhere except in my memory.

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A Family Photo at Sydney Airport as we left for Tasmania in November, 2005.

Back in November, 2005 we visited the Ross and Richmond River bridges on the same day when we were driving from Bridport to Hobart. I clearly remember buying a famed Scallop Pie and eating it in from what I thought was the Ross Bridge and yet there we are in front of the Richmond Bridge and the Ross Bridge and I’m so confused! Of course, given that was 12 years ago and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, I’d be forgiven for forgetting the detail. That is, if I wasn’t setting myself up as some kind of quasi expert on the place simply by posting a few photos and text to the World Wide Web. Put the wrong name on the wrong bridge, and I might as well jump off it then and there. All cred is gone. Well, perhaps that is an excessive response, but you get my drift.

In addition to memory mix-ups like that, there’s also memory gaps, which no amount of prompting can dare I say: “bridge”.

While I was researching Ross Bridge tonight, I found references to numerous stone carvings on the bridge and wondered how I’d missed them. As a photographer, I have an eye, especially for something unique and exceptional like that. Hey, I find interest in simple reflections in a myriad of surfaces. How could I miss that? What was I thinking?

Truth is, that when I looked through my photos, sure enough I’d zoomed in on those carvings and they were there as large as life. My eye was good. My brain’s just been overloaded. Humph! What did I say about too much water under the bridge? Indeed, the bridge has well and truly been washed away.

This is why I’m so thankful that after the holiday’s over, I can go home and do my research. Go through the historic newspapers online, read other accounts and really ramp up those often sketchy travel notes.

I would also like to mention that by returning to our 2005 visit to Ross and Richmond, I was blessed to dig up a string of beautiful photos of our family as it was back then. Indeed, I felt like I’d jumping into a time machine and even if I couldn’t touch and feel our Little Man, I could sense him with all my being and so much love. That was a remarkable experience as he’s 13 and racing towards becoming a man.

Starting off with Ross Bridge.

The Ross Bridge, which crosses the Macquarie River, was completed in July 1836. This sandstone bridge was constructed by convict labour, and is the third oldest bridge still in use in Australia. Commissioned by Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur, it was designed by architect John Lee Archer, with the convict work team including two stonemasons, James Colbeck and Daniel Herbert.  Although Herbert was credited with producing the intricate carvings which run along both sides of the bridge, so much still remains unknown about them and they’ve become something of an enigma.

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This photo clearly displays the stone carvings attributed to Daniel Herbert.

As an aside, I thought you might enjoy this newspaper snippet about the town of Ross written in 1909. As much as we might enjoy these gorgeous, time-capsules of days gone by, they could also been perceived as “dying towns”. Or, places which have gone to sleep:

“Ross is a midland town, founded in the early days of Tasmanian settlement, and has been associated with her changeful history through many long years, but for very obvious reasons has not kept pace with the general progress of the State. Indeed, the present condition of Ross shows more of retrogression than progression.”

It goes on to mention Ross Bridge:

“Ross Bridge which is constructed of material taken from local quarries, is a fine, structure, and when first completed, with its stone pillared approaches and steps to the water’s edge, must certainly have presented a pleasing and artistic aspect. ‘Elaborate chiselling in leaf pattern has been executed round the edging of the double arches spanning the Macquarie River. The parapets are solid and massive. The centre block on the outer sides contains the following inscription: ‘ ‘Colonel George Arthur, Lieutenant Governor, 1836  while the end. blocks of the parapet show the words ‘Captain Wm. Turner. 50th, or’ Queen’s Own, Regiment, superintendent.’ An inscription’ on the inner side shows this bridge to be 69 miles distant from Hobart and 48 From Launceston.

Richmond Bridge2

Richmond Bridge.

Richmond Bridge is Australia’s oldest bridge. Crossing the Coal River 27 km North of Hobart, the foundation stone was laid on 11 December 1823 and construction continued using convict labour until completion in 1825. A painting of the bridge in it’s original condition was commissioned, which may be viewed here: http://bonniewilliam.com/honours/architects-and-masons/

Not to be outdone by the Ross Bridge with its impressive carvings, the Richmond Bridge has intrigues of its own, including murder and intrigue.

In 1832,  George Grover, a much hated convict overseer, was walking home after the Harvest Festival,  and fell asleep drunk on the Richmond Bridge. Seizing the opportunity, he was thrown from the bridge on to the rocks, seven metres below. He was found alive by a police constable early the next morning, and named the four men responsible before  dying of internal bleeding. However, no one was ever convicted for his murder, reputedly as Grover was so widely despised.

Grover had been transported from England for burglary in 1826. “By 1829 he was the javelin man and flagellator at Richmond Gaol. Apparently, he was employed to ride atop the man carts carrying stone quarried from nearby Butcher’s Hill, violently whipping the prisoners as they pushed the load. Grover relished his role as overseer and abused his power. He gained a reputation for cruelty. He whipped and beat men he perceived weren’t working hard enough.

However, the story doesn’t end there.

Grover’s ghost is reputedly haunting Richmond Bridge, along with another ghost known as “Grover’s Dog”. He is described as a dark silhouette without discernible facial features, which sometimes stalks people as they cross the bridge as he paces the length of the bridge in death as he did in life. In more dramatic accounts of this haunting, his ghost has been seen in the trees west of the bridge watching people as they crossed the bridge. At other times, people have sensed his anger, he evidently is still disturbed by the way he died.

Another ghost seen on the Richmond Bridge is a large, black or white ghost dog. This apparition is known as “Grover’s Dog.” This ghost is seen only after dark. Lone females and children who have crossed the bridge at night claim they have seen this dog and it’s friendly. Several women have said they were accompanied across the bridge by this ghost dog only to have it disappear once they reached the other side.

I’m not quite sure what to make of these ghosts, but I love a good story.

Map Richmond Bridge to hobart

Before we call it a day, we’ll be hopping back in our cars and heading to Hobart for the night. My apologies, especially as so many of you aren’t used to driving such distances. However, that’s what you sign up with on the A-Z Challenge… 26 day gallop through whatever it is your pursuing with only Sundays off to curl up under the doona (duvet).

Yet, I hope you like me, are finding the journey is worth it. Now, I’m itching to go back to Tasmania to appreciate all my research in the flesh.

Have you done much travel writing? Or, do you enjoy reading about travel? What are some of the pitfalls you’ve experienced with travel writing? Please share.

xx Rowena

References

http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php/article/the-mysterious-art-of-the-ross-bridge

http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/the-meaning-and-significance-of-the-carvings/http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/kim-peart/

Jorgen and Norah on the Ross Bridge

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-12/richmond-bridge-conservation-works-tasmania/8347030

https://seeksghosts.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/tasmanias-haunted-bridge.html

Q- Queenstown, Tasmania.

Welcome to Day 16 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

As you may be aware, we are Travelling Alphabetically Around Tasmania at Beyond the Flow this year. This morning, we left Port Arthur ridiculously early for the 5 hour (340 km) drive to Queenstown, on the West Coast. We will be going on a very quick detour to check out Russell Falls, which is a quick 10 minutes walk from the Mt Field Visitors’ Centre. So, if you’re wanting to get onboard the West Coast Wilderness Railway at Queenstown, we’ll have to hurry up. After all, we’re only here for one day.

The route we are taking today retraces my journey from Port Arthur to Devonport via Queenstown on my first trip to Tasmania in 1995…a trip I have always considered a big mistake. Back in the days long before I’d met Geoff my favourite Tasmanian, I’d flown down to Tassie to see the end of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. I was staying in the youth hostel in Hobart, when I hooked up with another backpacker and we hired a car to get around. When I tell you that we headed straight for Queenstown on the West Coast after leaving Port Arthur, you’ll know I hadn’t done my research because we completely missed the beauties of Freycinet National Park, including Wine Glass Bay.

Instead, we experienced Russell Falls, which were amazing from memory (I more remember photographing the falls, which won’t surprise you). From there, we kept travelling west and needed somewhere to stay. That’s how we ended up in Queenstown. It was a large dot on the map and off we went. For those of you who are uninitiated into travelling around Tasmania, you won’t appreciate the implications of this. Back then, Queenstown was nothing but a decimated moonscape after years of Copper mining:

“The copper smelters wreaked havoc on the surrounding landscape. Not only did the sulphur fumes kill off plants in the area but the eleven furnaces required vast quantities of timber and the mining company simply cut down the forests to fuel the fires. It has been estimated that hundreds of men were employed as timber cutters and that over 3 million tonnes of timber were cut down between 1896 and 1923. At its peak the furnaces were consuming 2,040 tonnes of wood each week. The combination of timber felling, the sulphur fumes and the heavy rainfall in the area (which washed away the top soil) ensured that by 1900 the whole valley looked like a desert.[1]

Queenstown

I also came across this piece about Queenstown written by Alan Banks, age 13 and particularly loved his description of the Galena crystals (Geoff has since told me his sister had such a lump):

“QUEENSTOWN, Tasmania, has a recorded population of 2800, but this has shrunk a great deal, for there were many people prospecting for gold some years ago. Nearby is Mount Lyall, the source of much copper. Many metals are mined here, including gold, silver and lead. Silver-lead ore, the galena crystal for wireless sets, for which one pays so much in the Sydney shops, was often dug up in lumps the size of a football in back yards and gardens. Sulphur is also extensively found here, and whenever the north-east wind blows Queens-town smells horribly, (Mt. Lyell is to the north-east of the town.) Bush fires in summer frequently occur; they presented a magnificent sight to us at night time, for our house was just opposite the mountain and we had splendid views of the broad sheet of flame rolling down the steep mountain side. The crackling of the fires could be heard in the town. Not far away are the pleasant sea side resorts of Zeehan and Strahan. Zeehan, where boating and swimming facilities are ideal, is famous, even in Tasmania, for fishing. Tourist trips on the Gordon River are very popular. Parties arc taken up the river in launches, and spend several days in camp on the edge of the impenetrable jungle. The rain fall is extremely high here, which, with the fertility of the soil, accounts for the heavy growth of trees and vegetation. The average annual rain fall is 100 inches.”

Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 3 January 1932, page 2

While I’m pleased I made the trip in hindsight, I was a bit pissed off with myself once I’s seen photos of Wineglass Bay and saw what I’d missed. I’d only had about a week in Tassie at the time, so every day was precious and on your first visit, you want to do the best, rather than the more “educational” stuff.

Since that first trip, I’ve been back to Tassie about five times with Geoff and we really do tend to stick around the North and North-East with fleeting trips down south to Hobart and more recently Port Arthur. This means I’ve never been back to Queenstown and we’ve only made it down as far as Strahan on a previous trip. This has not been due to last of interest, but lack of time. There really is so much to see in Tassie and we tend to explore in detail, rather than spreading ourselves thin. However, we are planning to explore the West Coast on our next trip and take the West Coast Wilderness Railway.

That means we’d better start saving our pennies. We can’t get enough of Tasmania.

xx Rowena

References

[1] http://www.theage.com.au/news/tasmania/queenstown/2005/02/17/1108500205909.html

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

Weekend Coffee Share- Happy Easter Edition.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Before I even offer you a cup of tea or coffee, let me wish you and yours a Happy and Blessed Easter. In so doing, I’d like to offer you more than Easter eggs, Hot Cross Buns and give you something meaningful instead, which would be so much more appropriate. So, I’ll offer you a hug and a smile and I just remembered that if you’ve just walked through our front door our Border Collie, Bilbo, and Border x Cavalier, Lady will be there. Bilbo might bark and he takes awhile to warm up to people, even people he knows, unless it’s my Mum who he seems to know is Grandma. Besides, just like Grandparents bring treats for the kids, she bring ham scraps for the dogs. Their love is easily bought.

bilbo & Lady friends

I know you think the dog protests too much. Somehow, friendship seems to grow on you when you’ve been thrown in the same backyard. You can somehow get used to having another dog around. Indeed, after all this time, I might even like the Lady.

We’ve decided to stay home and spend Easter Sunday with just the four of us. Well, that is after we’ve been to Church and Geoff and the kids will be going to hear Martin Smith from Delirious at Church tomorrow night. I don’t think I’ll be going as my lungs are quite sensitive and reacting to the slightest irritation at the moment. I’m slugging ventolin, preventer and phenergan and still coughing. Off for a lung scan, but I don’t think my lungs are any worse.

Anyway, as many of you will know, I’ve been embroiled in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. My theme this year has been Traveling Alphabetically Around Tasmania. Considering my theme last year was “Writing Letters to Dead Poets”, I’d thought this year’s theme was going to be relatively easy. However, I didn’t just want to produce some kind of bullet point, shopping list tour of the place. I wanted something personal, intimate and providing an inside-out view of the place mixing in a bit of history in with our recent trip to Tasmania and our photos.

Perhaps, I am the problem and it was inevitable my A-Z would get out of control again and break out of its box. I do have a tendency to bite off way more than I can chew. This week trouble hit when I started writing about the Irish Nationalists who were exiled to Tasmania. One of these, John Mitchel, wrote Jail Journal which covered the time from his sentencing, escape and arrival in New York. As it turned out, Geoff’s Great Great Grandfather, Daniel Burke and his brother, helped John Mitchel escape. So, there was quite a personal aspect to the story and it took quite a bit of research to get the family facts straight. By this point, I started wondering whether to continue with the A to Z and had a few days off. I don’t know what it was. However, I felt much better this morning and caught up.

The kids are currently on school holidays for 2.5 weeks and have had a few days away with my parents to give us a break. We certainly needed it and am so thankful. I feel like I’m always heading in so many different directions and yesterday I decided to go nowhere. I slept in until the afternoon and parked in my writing chair researching and didn’t budge. Indeed, my phone didn’t even record one step for yesterday. There was no data available.

It’s okay to have a PJ day no and then when it’s perfectly acceptable to wrap yourself up in your quilt and retreat. Stop fighting whatever it is you’re fighting for one day. Unless you’re really unlucky, it won’t be the end of your world. Indeed, I had a lot more energy to get on with things today.

We’ve decided to defer Easter lunch with my parents and brother until Monday, which is my brother’s birthday.

I’m also trying to work out how we’re going to get to the Easter Show this year. We’ve been given free tickets, but there’s only a few days left and things on. Hoping to get there on Tuesday.

Anyway, that’s enough about me. What about you? Do you celebrate Easter? Or, you have different traditions and beliefs?

Well, I hope you’re going well and I look forward to catching up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

J-Jail Journal : A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 10 of our Alphabetical Tour Around Tasmania.

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

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

John mitchel with signature

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

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

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

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

Jail Journal

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

Trial_of_John_Mitchel_1848

Trial of John Mitchel 1848

Mitchel goes on to ask:

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

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

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

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

Daniel Burke

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

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

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

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

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

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

nant_cottage_big

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

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

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

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

xx Rowena

References:

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

[2] Ibid. pp 4-5.

[3] Ibid pp 301-302.

[4] Ibid, p. 201.

I-Irish Nationalists in Tasmania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Mitchel

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

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

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

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

Smith O'Brien

William Smith O’Brien.

William Smith O’Brien

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

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

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

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

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

Smith O'Briens Cottage

Smith O’Brien’s Cottage at Port Arthur.

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

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

Stay tuned.

xx Rowena

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

Sources

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

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

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