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Chapter 1

I search for history on the Hobart-Launceston road and find it in plenty, discover a beachless Brighton, walk through an appleland and tell of a trouble-making pioneer.

Very early one April morning I turned my back on Hobart and began a journey originally intended to be of 121 miles, but which ended by exceeding 1,400. It was between the G.P.O. and Augusta Road that this book was born, for as I trudged up Elizabeth Street, I reflected that although an observant globe-trotter had declared of Tasmania that he had "seen no country of the British Empire that was such a panorama of beauties", the few books that had been written about the island had by no means exhausted the subject. Another traveller (Mr George Mendell) had included Tasmania as one of the four most lovely islands of the world, but no Stevenson, no Belloc, no H. V. Morton had as yet wandered this way. Though Anthony Trollope travelled here in 1872, Tasmania still awaits "discovery".
So, as I started out to walk the historic road between Hobart and Launceston and to note whatever information came to my ken, I decided to continue my adventures into the trackless regions of the interior, to sleep at hotels where there were any, in haystacks, hollow logs, or bush- men's camps where there were none; and then, if my pilgrimage found me still alive, I'd enter upon what might be a still harder quest--the quest for a publisher. And so, realizing that I was turning my holiday into a task, I entered the last suburban stationer's shop and purchased as many notebooks as my swag would hold. This book is the substance of what I set down in them.
Were I judge of a contest in Tasmania at which the twelve months of the year were competitors I should always give April the prize. The days are as near perfection as mortal could wish, with a tang in the mornings and evenings to give a contrast with the grateful warmth of noonday; and there are those gorgeous colourings with which autumn splashes this island that is just a warmer England. I am always sorry that the bulk of the tourists do not see Tasmania with her party dress on. They cannot be blamed, of course, for flocking across in January and February to enjoy the pleasure of summer temperatures from fifteen to twenty degrees lower than their mainland homes; but they have not seen Tasmania in her most gracious mood till they have visited her in April. I was truly sorry for those thousands of visitors who had scorned home too soon, as I journeyed on to experience three weeks of perfect weather. I cannot say that I shook the dust of the city off my feet, firstly because there is very little dust at any time in Hobart, and secondly because whatever specks there might have been were well and truly laid by the heavy autumn dew.
Near the top of "Lord's Hill" I waved a goodbye to Hobart. I knew that the main road is now a street of houses for many miles, and I remembered the sentence in the first issue of Ross's Almanac, a quarter of a century after the foundation of the city, remarking on the wonderful growth of the town, and recording that the furthermost cottage on the left "is the elegant little cottage of Mr Emmett". It was opposite this house, where my father and grandfather had lived, that I turned to wave goodbye. I could not see any name on the gate, but the original name was Beaulieu-pronounced "Bewley"-named after the abbey in Hampshire. Adjoining this "elegant little cottage" there had been Providence Valley, the hop plantation of Mr Shoobridge. No other notable building then existed till Mr Lepine's public house The Rose was reached, after the crossing of the New Town rivulet. St John's Church, now regarded as old, had not then come into the picture. A hundred years has moved the "last house on the left" nearly twelve miles along the road.
New Town is the first suburb, and as it was born on 7 January 1885, there is now nothing very new about it. Perhaps on the occasion of its second centenary a re- christening will be part of the ceremony, for the name is now about as apt as that of Forest, near Stanley, where the trees have long since disappeared.
Looking back from St John's Avenue I came to the conclusion that Hobart is exactly the right size. Green paddocks divide house allotments, virgin bush is little more than ten minutes away, hawthorn hedges border enticing lanes, and picnic spots abound by creek banks. Hobart is at once country and city-the happy medium. Doubling the population might reduce the taxes, but a big city swallows up the beauty. Of course, where Hobart is pre-eminent is in its hills and mountains. Every ten minutes there is a view, for there is not a road that hasn't learned to climb.
I wonder why people take more interest in buildings than in roads. If you wanted to find out all about Government House, or Parliament House, or the G.P.O., you would get it all duly set forth, with dates and coats and other particulars. The Hobart-Launceston road has a history much more absorbing than that of any mere building, yet it may almost be taken for granted that that history has never been written; its humours and tragedies have been blown away in the dust of the highway and nobody knows how many millions have been expended on its construction, its upkeep, its deviations and general repairs. The map conveys about as much concerning it as the directory does about the inmates of the numbered dwellings. Of its entire length possibly not one half now follows the original route surveyed by James Meehan in 1812.
The actual pioneer was Lieutenant Laycock who, in 1807, occupied nine days in getting through from Launceston to Hobart. A car today could do the distance in one third as many hours. Then, nine years later, Postman Robert Taylor began his 120-mile "round", starting on alternate Sunday mornings from either end. One wishes that he had kept a "log" of this dangerous and strenuous "inland voyage". It would have told of hide and seek with predatory bands of blacks and bushrangers, of summer scorchings and winter soakings, news by gossip as well as by mail for the isolated settlers at whose homes he lodged. The Derwent was crossed at Roseneath Ferry, where a bridge was contemplated; but the Bridgewater Causeway began to crawl across in 1830 and the two inns, at and opposite Roseneath, went out of business. In I824 wagoner McMahon lumbered through with a load of goods, and coachman Cox initiated his tandem service in 1832, superseded two years later by a four-horse coach. Travellers who are today too timid to use the air services may be reassured by the information that coaching a hundred years ago was infinitely more dangerous, for John Cox's widow was so unnerved by the multiplicity of accidents that she sold out for three thousand pounds; and the purchaser, Sam Page, soon afterwards entered upon his famous coach duel with Mr. Lord, under which the fares of 2 pounds each way were dropped to 5 shillings. The last coach ran in 1872, when the now struggling railways captured the business. The old inns then fell on evil days, and the next upward move of the barometer for them was when the safety bicycle came on the scene, followed by the motor car, which brought back something of the prosperity of the days of Cox and Page. But now both railways and motor cars have a new competitor, for by 'plane the two cities are less than an hour apart.
At the seventh milestone I climbed the railway fences to have a look at all that is left of the once famous Green Man Inn. Only the stables now remain, with the trough where the coach-horses quenched their thirsts whilst the passengers did likewise at the bar. Tasmania could not afford, like England, to drown its spare notable in butts of Malmsey, so at the Green Man mere water was used to make away with an officer who, so the tale goes, was deputed to spy upon the proprietor, suspected of selling illicit liquor. He was betrayed by his lady-love, the barmaid, and his skeleton was discovered years afterwards at the bottom of the fifty-foot well on the premises.

My next trespass was on the right-hand side of the road about a mile further on. A few yards inside an orchard is an old, tumble-down wooden building, and over the mantel one can still read "Year of construction c1808". This was the cottage of James P. Fawkner, who afterwards shared with Batman in the founding of Melbourne. Inside, on one of the sheet-iron walls, is a large painting of a woman's face. I don't know the artist, but it was probably done by some later tenant. In the Lands Chart, under date 20th September 1813, J. Fawkner Jr is shown as owning fifty and ninety acres. What could that be worth now, I wonder? Fawkner chose a perfect spot, with a slope down to the river and half a dozen mountains in view. The decrepit building, which it has lately been decided to preserve, sheltered a man with a romantic history. Fawkner arrived with the founder of Hobart, David Collins, whom he criticized for not having persevered in establishing a settlement at Port Phillip. His career was a chequered one and he tried his hand at all sorts of vocations. He was blacksmith, landholder, publican, amateur lawyer, newspaper proprietor, and joint-founder of a colony, with many other occupations in between. In c 1826, when landlord of the Cornwall Hotel at Launceston, he joined Mr. William Monds in a project for establishing a second newspaper in the North which necessitated journeying to Hobart to obtain a printing press from Andrew Bent, the father of the Tasmanian press. This, be it remembered, was in pre-coach days and only an odd wagon had made its precarious way through after McMahon first made the journey in c1824. Perhaps today’s speedsters will cease their grumbling when they learn that poor Fawkner's dray-motive power two bullocks-toppled over in a rut at New Town, spilling press, type and all the accompaniments amongst the grass. Further disasters-far worse than punctures-occurred before the dray reached Launceston, and Fawkner's news paper was undoubtedly born with much travail. Nine years later he fitted out an expedition to found a settlement on the place of his first landing in Australia, Port Phillip, which involved him in his historic feud with Batman who had crossed from Tasmania a month or so before. Fawkner died at Melbourne on 4 September 1869.
On the nearby peninsula at Claremont-a "sweet spot" in a double sense-is the immense factory of Cadbury-Fry-Pascall and though quite a village has sprung up, there are still acres of green fields in which browse the cows that give promise that the chocolate "creams" are not merely called so by courtesy.
Ross records in his Almanac of 1829 that a quarter of a mile beyond "Abbotsfield" is Roseneath Ferry, "where Mr. Austin keeps an Inn with an excellent garden for the entertainment of visitors". The visitors are still furnished with an excellent garden not far away, and I enjoyed an invigorating cup of coffee in the refreshment room which peeps across at Old Beach, where the bridge that was "in contemplation" never eventuated.
Granton, so called after the Manager of the Main Line Railways Company (the late Hon. C. H. Grant), is the name of the settlement where the famous Black Snake Inn sold its "snake-juice". Facing the bridge is a watch-house over a century old. Just beyond Bridgewater, on the left, is Cobb's Hill, where lived the Mrs. Brown who was once the friend but afterwards the betrayer of Martin Cash, the bushranger. Reams could be written of the old-time buildings-and the new ones-between Hobart and Bridgewater; but there is a long way to go.
Pontville-originally Brighton-was the comedian of Tasmanian towns. Why Governor Macquarie, of Sydney, named the place "Brighton" is a mystery. The solution I have to offer is that when, on 4th June 1821, Macquarie stopped at this spot, about seventeen miles from Hobart, he omitted to mix a sufficiency of the Jordan water with his midday grog, and worked himself into the humour to perpetuate one of the many nomenclature jokes of the world. Dickens followed him in naming an American swamp Eden, and the latter's facetiousness has been duplicated in our west coast railway station of the same name. Had Eve lived in Tasmania's Eden she would not have been censured for stealing an apple, for no apple would grow there - though tea-tree does passing well. The Brighton joke cannot have been appreciated by the sailors of the British Fleet who used to visit Hobart years ago. They invariably asked for rail tickets to Brighton to have a further look at the sea ) When the departmental ticket-clerk tumbled to the reason, the Brighton innkeeper doubtless did not thank him, for thereafter New Norfolk got the tars' beer-money. But though there is neither sea nor a beach near Brighton, there is sand a-plenty, as punters who have experienced a windy New Year's Day at the racecourse can certify. The name of the original Brighton township has been changed to Pontville. In 1829 it boasted a King's store, Government cottage, barracks and gaol. From the latter both roof and prisoners have departed long since, but the other buildings are still in use. Pontville is a sleepy, old-world village, but it has rubbed its eyes into wakefulness lately by the fact that it has an aerodrome. I visited the very pretty St. Mark's Church and wandered through the graveyard where the earliest readable stone I could find bore date 1848. St. Mark's was designed by the ex-convict Blackburn, who built the church at Port Arthur.
In I826 Brighton figured in another joke. Serious consideration was given to making it the capital! Soundings were even taken in the Jordan; and Earl Bathurst in a dispatch to Governor Arthur said : "I should be inclined to pronounce that Brighton would be the most judicious spot to fix upon for the future capital", but he went on to instruct the Governor to stick to Hobart. Hobart has weathered claims from Brighton, New Norfolk and Launceston. Which will be the next aspirant?
A mile along the road I sat under a hawthorn hedge and enjoyed a snack. It was a lovely morning and it fitted the scene, for the fertile Bagdad Valley is a picture in autumn. Green and gold are the basic tintings, splashed with flaming scarlet apples, hawthorn berries, briars and an occasional holly or other bush. Magpies had serenaded me for miles. As I rested at the top of Constitution Hill a car passed me doing fifty per hour and favouring me with its dust. I don't think the two occupants even saw me, for their eyes were glued to the road. Perhaps, however, there is something interesting in road metal which I have hitherto failed to appreciate.
My next encounter was with an urchin who was helping himself to apples, one eye on the orchard and the other on me. I called to him to bring me a couple, though I knew all about the receiver being as guilty as the thief. But passing Bagdad without sampling its apples is simply not done-that is, by pedestrians. As a matter of fact, stealing apples at Bagdad is not stealing, nor at the Derwent Valley nor the Huon. There are countless thousands of them, and the ground is often carpeted with windfalls.
Kempton was originally the Green Duckholes, afterwards Green Ponds, the name now of the municipality. It is, like most of the main-road towns, just a street, but it is in a pretty valley. The Soldiers' Memorial takes the sensible form of a clock tower. The church was finished in 1829, and I noticed one tombstone that had passed its hundredth year. My old almanac told me that I might find "Mrs Ransome's comfortable two-storey inn", at twenty-nine miles, at Crossmarsh; but, not finding it, I drowned my disappointment in a glass of beer at the Exchange Hotel. There used also to be a market place and sale yards at Crossmarsh, but that effective eraser Time appears to have blotted out Crossmarsh altogether.
On the left, nearing Melton Mowbray, is the Mount Vernon Estate, once the home of Anthony Fenn Kemp. Anthony Kemp was born at Aldgate in 1773, and before he came to New South Wales made acquaintance with France in the time of the Revolution, and with America when he visited Washington at his estate on the Potomac. That accounts for the name Mount Vernon being given to the 800 acres that Captain Kemp selected at Crossmarsh, near today's Kempton, the origin of which latter name is obvious. He came to New South Wales as Ensign in 1795 and saw a couple of years' service at Norfolk Island. When Colonel Paterson founded the settlement at Port Dalrymple, Kemp (Captain since 1801) accompanied him as Senior Military officer, and in Paterson's absences he acted as Commandant. In 1808 we find him taking an active part in the insurrection against Governor Bligh, and afterwards being appointed Judge Advocate. He went to England in 1810, sold his Commission and started life again four years later as merchant in Hobart Town.
Captain Kemp appears to have been a vitriolic character, for he was continually in trouble. A considerable portion of his life was spent in insulting high personages and apologizing therefor. He was in the limelight from his youth until his body found a resting place in St George's Churchyard, Hobart, at the age of ninety-five. His first recorded reprimand is by Governor King for making charges against the officers of the French exploring ships.
He then enjoyed the status of magistrate at the Derwent in c18I6, but his flair for falling out with his Governors continued, for Davey gave it in evidence that he had turned the Captain out of Government House for "extreme rudeness". The valiant Anthony continued his endeavours to reform the morals of the day-for which there was much need-and he fell foul of Governor Sorell on the same score. Sorell's summing up of the firebrand was "the most seditious, mischievous and the man least meriting favour or indulgence from the Government in the whole settlement". On the assumption that birds of a feather flock together, Sorell also refused a licence as auctioneer to Kemp's partner, Gatehouse. In 1818 Sorell suspended Kemp from the magistracy and alluded to him as a character "well-known for turbulence and malevolent and for a tongue which spares none in its slanders".
It was a case of "Pull baker, pull devil" between Kemp and Sorell for quite a time. The Captain pursued the Governor with letters to headquarters, objecting "as a married man with six children" to having to serve under a Governor who lived with a lady who was somebody else's wife and whom he introduced as Mrs Sorell to callers at Government House. Neither did he confine his objections concerning promiscuous wooings to such high personages as Governors, for we find him naming Mr Hood, Captain Nairne and Mr Ross for "parading the streets of Hobart in their Regimentals with kept women". The year 1818 was quite a hectic one with Anthony, for not only was he at loggerheads with the Governor but he fell foul of the local authorities for neglecting to "muster" his family and chattels, and was fined twenty shillings and did a stretch of one hour in gaol.
Commissioner J. T. Bigge was sent from England to enquire into various matters in Australia, and as the outcome of Captain Kemp's allegations the enquiry included evidence as to Sorell's administration and morals-or lack of them. After giving evidence in 1819 Anthony virtually fades out of the picture as a malcontent, and his doings are mostly concerned with his business or his various positions on committees. It is pleasing to note that the years evidently mellowed his character, for on 18th January 1824 he writes a covering letter for a petition to His Majesty the King praying that William Sorell be continued as Governor, explaining that the differences of earlier years were the result of "want of explanation and too much warmth on both sides". The only spasm of rancour that seems to have occurred was when on 23 March I827 Kemp and others wrote to Earl Bathurst and complained of Governor Arthur's discourtesy. After Arthur's term Kemp lived through the periods of five succeeding rulers; but either they were quite satisfactory characters or else the worthy Captain had given up the reforming business. "Heigho," quoth Anthony Fenn, "I leave the world a better place than I found it."
Soon after Mount Vernon and my visions of its founder had faded into their respective distances of time and place, the very welcome Melton Mowbray Hotel opened its doors, its bar and its bathroom to minister to the wants of the tired individual who needed creature comforts to revive him. The palmiest days of the Melton Mowbray Hotel were when the local Hunt Club held its convivial gatherings. Gone now are the hounds, the horses, and many of the huntsmen. The meets that were a feature of the good old days are almost forgotten. I was sorry that none of the pictures on the walls dealt with them. The few Inns that have retained them are bombarded by applicants, and a collector occasionally makes off with one that has escaped the dust can.

Chapter 2

 

 

 

Tasmania by Road and Track - by E T Emmett was originally published by Melbourne University Press.
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Please contact Kelvin Markham on 0419 152 612 or km@km.com.au