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Chapter 13

I wander on a beach, loiter at a lovely village, introduce Tasmania's Pepys and steal extracts from one of the world's quaintest diaries, then walk through appleland.

From Sorell to Hobart you have the choice of keeping to the main road which strikes Bellerive at fourteen miles, or of doubling back to Lewisham, ferrying across to Seven-Mile Beach, and walking through Rokeby, a distance of something over twenty miles. I chose the latter.
Lewisham is another old-timer, for this was once the route to Port Arthur, and Pittwater was crossed at Dodge's Ferry. Since then three causeways have been built farther west, two for road traffic and one for the railway that struggled on for thirty-three years and recently ceased operating. Lewisham's main fame today is based on the good fare at the hostelry and the fat flounders in the bay. The iron bars at the windows of some of the outhoilSes explain what the buildings were used for a century ago.
Seven-Mile Beach has become a popular week-end resort for Hobart residents. At the western end of the bead~ there is a stiff hill to dimb, three miles of gorgeous heather and light scrub to scramble through, and you are at Rokeby in six miles. Had you lived a century ago you would have })roph.esicd a great future for Rokeby, for it was called "the hayloft of Hobart Town". Alas, hay is no longer wanted, for motor cars will not eat it. Tinie has long stood still in this charming little village, tucked away on the road to 110-where in particular. The road may be better metalled, one or two modern houses have crept apologetically amongst the more substantial convict-built structures, orchards have replaced some of the hayfields, the roadside gums are taller, but the Rokeby that. slopes away to the bay is to all intents and purposes the same that the Rev, Robert Knopwood knew. It was on r3 July iSoS, that the Reverend diarist ~agrnanj~t's ~first. chaplain) recorded "Early this morn I tdok my boat and werit over to Ralph's Plain where I had 400 acres of glehe land marked out by Mr Shipman and in the eve I returned home." rt was to this propcrty that the Rev. Rob~rr Knopwood retired later in life, arid there he was buried in 1838. The district is frequently mentioned in his diary, for shooting excursions, visits to "Claremont"
-the house still standing on the southern side of the road a couple of miles on the Bellerive side of Rokeby-and visits to the "Tryworks" at the point named on maps Droughty but pronounced by the people of Hobart "Droothy".
Pretty as Rokeby is, I woul~1 have omitted it from my pilgrimage but for the fact that it contains the tomb of Tasmania's Pepys. There are scores of other hamlets as alluring, but no churchyard in Australia has a monument more worthy of perpetual care than this. The inscription reads:

Sacred to the memory of the Rev. Robert Knopwood. M.A., who died September iS 1838, aged 77 years. He was the first Colonial Chaplain in Van Diemen's Land, having arrived in February 1804. with Lt. Governor Collins. lie was a steady and affectionate friend, a man of strict integrity and active benevolence, ever ready to relieve the distress and to ameli-orate the condition of the afflicted. This monument was erected by an obliged and grateful friend as a mark of her respect.

Tasmania's Pepys, like the seventeenth-century diarist, left a picture of his times in a quaintly worded record of his daily doings, in which the personal element played the principal part. But if the sieve be well shaken the residue remaining above the mesh is full of substance. Reading the pages of this ill-spelt, carelessly punctuated, ungram-matical record, we get vivid particulars of the infancy of Port Phillip and Van Diemen's Land, and of many per-sonages who literally "drunk their cup" in company wiTh the kindly parson, "and one by one crept silently to rest". It is a hotch-potch of personal doings through the haze of which are observed the aboriginal possessors of the soil:  the settlers, cruel and kind, who dispossessed ·them; the hopeless felons doomed to banishment in this land raised
·    to a 'bad eminence" by the action of the penal authorities the strange animals, birds and fish of the antipodes; "fain-me, murder and sudden death"; the origin of the nomenclature of physical features; gossip of die weather and the crops.
The diaries originally extended from r8oi to i8~8, but nme years' manuscripts are missing. Diaries from i So~ to I SoS are in private hands at Rokeby. The otliers are it) the possession of the Mit~ell Library, Sydney. But before we start examining his diary let us have a quick peep at the gentleman himself-this Master of Arts who could not spell as ~wcli as a fourthiorni schoolboy of today, this typical product of the times when most clergymen were good shots, good riders, good company and hard drinkers. Rohert Knopwood was boi~ in Norfolk, England, on 2 June 1761. With youthful diligence he sowed a plentiful crop of wild oats, for he had squandered considerable inherited wealth before hc' decided to take Holy Orders. For a time he was domestic chaplain to Earl Spencer, in 8o~ hc was chaplain on the Resolution, and on 14 January 1803, he was appointed chaplain to David-Collins' expedition sent to form a settlement at Port PhiHip. After a very short stay at Port Phillip Collins decided that the place was unsuit-able for a settlement and he moved the whole expedition on to the Derwent, in the south of Van Diemen's Land. Knop-wood was appointed magistrate at the Derwent, and was much trusted 1)y Collins, though his unconventional meth-Ms found little favour with GovernorAnthief Macquarie, in Sydney. · "Bobby", as he was familiarly called, was a convivial soul, fond of visiting and gossip, tolerant of other religious sects, benevolent and kind-hearted.
References to the wine cup or its equivalent are more numerous even than those of Omar Khayyam. It was doubtless with considerable regret that on 6 August i 80£ he had to record that there was "not a drop of spirits in the Colony". This was the beginning of Tasmania's first famine,. for he says, "This day we were put on shorter allow-ance 2 lb.. ro oz. Pork, ~ lbs. flower, 2 lb. wheat5 2 lb. meat." On the i9th of the following month he says, "I heard that some of die spirits which some of the officers bought of Capt. Bristow at 25S per gallon. was very bad rum from the Lreeward islands." Supplies evidcntly arrived soon after-wards, let us hope of better quality. for on 25 Jaituary iso6, Mr Knopwood records the Sabbath doings as "A.M. at ii perform'd divine service, At 4 P.M. I din'd with the Lt. Governor, We got exceedingly merry
·    The Chaplain exhibited no undue haste in securing a building for worship5 for it was thirteen years after his arrival that the foundation stone of the first church (St David's) was laid, during the rc'gime of the second Gover-nor, Davey. Davey celebrated the occasion 1)y ordering half a pint of spirits for each constable and soldier-sure]y a unique method of celebrating such a Thanksgiving Day! In the meantime services were held under verandabs or lib any available buildings, and lapses were frequent. The excuse very often was the inclemency of the weadier, but on one occasion Hobby found himself "[0 busy clearing the ship" to conduct a service. On Saturday, 27 March 1807, he went on board "Capt. Forrest's ship" and relates that "a quantity of spirits was landed and almost every-body was drunk". It is perhaps significant that next day the entry appears: "Divine service was not performed
-unwell that I could not dine at Capt. Johnson." On Monday a furtlier 223 gallons were landed, die reverend gentleman still unwell, and "could not dine at Mr Bow-den's". It is pleasing to notice that there is no mention of "spirit" when Mr Knopwood records a "dreadful accident" that occurred to him one "eve", to wit, "cut my thigh by falling bn the scrape", but it may be taken for granted that the gatherings were not strictly temperance functions when on 25 July 1807, Mr Knopwood took the chair at the open-ing of "the Publick House tlie sign of the Whale Fishery", nor when On 2 December of the same year he "din'd at the Governor's in his new house".

The famine conditions of chose first years produced an appalling situation, and the plight of the settlers was

~    Prisoners no doubt fared still worse. On 28 Octo-~er>i 8o6, the says: "The distress of the Colony beyond conception meat 3/6 per lb. coarse ineal 95 and potatoes '/6 a lb and very md and very little to be oh tamed. No work to be done. The poor people go out afishing." Next day he says that his pigeons are dying and that he has finished every grain of corn for them. Then comes an account of punishment of 200 lashes each for six men because "they refused to let 2 casks of biscuit and 3 of flower land for the relief of the colony". A pound of tea is recorded as having sold for six guineas. The famine continued into next year, and four months later potatoes cost fifteen shillings a pound.
It was undoubtedly well for the Chaplain and his friends that he was adept with the gun, for provisions were eked out by hunting kangaroo, ducks, snipe, swans and other game, and by catches of "perch rock codd and crayfish". "Very small fish 25 a doz. the fiatheads which are by much the most plentiful in the river" is recorded along with the statement that "wheat is £6 per bushell, barley £5, salt pork 3S lb and Rio tobacco £2.IO.o per lb." Coarse sugar was
pet lb. The Chaplain's shooting included the killing of "the first white hark", the first white kangaroo and numerous '4emews"
It would appear that the educational faults of the Master of Arts extended to his arithmetic as well as to his Eng-lish. The records give the year of his birth as 1761, and this squares with the tombstone~mscnption mentioning his age as 77 in [838. Hut his diary entry on 2 june i8os reads "This day aged 43 years", while the entry for 2 June 1807 is: "This is my birth day aged 44." It may be that the diary was entered up very ]ate at night. He records that he cele-brated the occasion by giving his men spirits, and "bad rum from the Leeward rslands" might easily account for the diarist finding difficulty in casting up the years of his age.
One wonders whether it is Bobby's arithmetic that is astray again when be mentions a crayfish weighing ~ lb.
-though it is generally conceded that some licence is allowed to narrators of the weights of fish and length of snakes.. Another interesting entry is; "We passed so many whales that it was dangerous for the boat to go up the river (Derwent) unless you kept very near the shore." Perhaps the sentence was not an over-statement, for the whaling industry was a very profitable one at the time, and Knopwood "as scores of entries concefl~ itig it. Tn [807 he mentions the death of a couple of men owing to blows from a whale, tl}e bodies being "landed at the Warf" for him to bury. After officiating at the burial the Chaplain attended a gathering at which, over "refreshment", the Captain gave him the details of the "melancholly sceine". Another death that possibly gave the sporting Parson as much pain as. the untimely end of the two sailors was the death of "my dog Spot which was speard by the natives", Bobby's loved companion, Spot, figures in many previous paragraphs.
In his thirty-four years' acquaintance with the beginnings of the settlement Chaplain Knopwood witnessed many changes. He saw Hobart first as virgin bush, then as a huddle of tents, and finally as a hustling commercial town, He saw the island's population grow from half a hundred to nearly fifty thousand, and knew five successive governors. He watched the aboriginal population dwindle from some 2,000 to about a hundred, and was a witness of that comic episode, the "Black War". He saw the first printing press set up "under a tree in the woods" and lived till the capital possessed no fewer than seven newspapers. I wonder how much Mr Knopwood's thirty-acre property ·'4Cottage Green", in the thickly populated suburb of Battery Point, would bring now. lit 1824 he offered it for £800.
One of the mottoes in the front of his diary, 4'Sic fortis Hobartia crevit - Thus has Hobart grown in strength"-Is the motto on the civic coat of arms at the present time, Another motto which he was wont to use in conversation was, "Do as I say, not as I do".

ISusliranging, whale-hunting, observations on the abori-gines, gardening, exploring and a medley of subjects occupy the entrancing pages of Knopwoodts diajy, and if you have only one evening to spend over it, as I had, you will go to bed late.

Day was just breaking as r turned to look back at Hobart and its harbour from the Iluon road. A large vessel was creeping up the river, her object the same as mine-apples. r was bound for tlie area that perhaps grows more apples than any part of the earth of similar size-the Huon Valley. At Longley, eleven miles out, I was invited to fill my pack; and when, in the late afternoon, I arrived at Huonville and skirted Rarietagh I thought I was looking at enough apples to feed the world. By the time I had covered the next twelve miles or so, I imagined that there were sufficient to feed Mars and all the other planets too.
The first apple tree in Tasmania was planted by Hligh, on Bruny Island, in i"88. He may have visualized Bruny and the Huon as an orchard paradise in a century's rime, but Parson Bobby Knopwood certainly did not. Bobby was a great gardener himself, but he must have been a shocking bad judge of soil, for in November r 804, on his first visit to the Huon, he wrote in his diary: "The river is by 1)0 means so fine as the Derwent, and as for the land there is none not even fit for a garden." The fluon is now one of the world's finest gardens.
Hut what a land of surprising contrasts is this Tasmania? The Huon orchard area is in County Kent; adjoining it is Cou+tty Arthur, and in that latter county there is scarcely any population. whatsoever. The land is too sterile and mountainous. Later on, perhaps, some of the river valleys may be found cap~)le of growing things and there may he metals under the mountains. The region has been scratched by prospectors, even the parts labelled '~Unexplorcd". but County Arthtir is a fearful place to be abroad in, especially if one gets among the forest of horizontal and haucra and such dread obstacles.

At Cygnet I turned..like Bun~an's Christi4n., a little out of the way; but it was Mr Democrat not Mr Worldly Wise-man whQ persuaded me; Thcre they hung, a scarlet mass, weighing the branches to the earth where an occasional prop had slipped, and the very ground was cumbered with them: it was carpeted with windfalls. r could have taken them away for nothing per sack I
Pickers were filling cases from the trees, cans were tak-ing them to the packing shed, and an endless procession of apples rolled down races to grade themselves automatically; men and women wrapped them with lightning speed into tissue paper and packed them into export cases. In the yard were more than a score of school children being taught by an &xpert to be as quick at wrapping as their mothers. Lorries left the shed and carried great loads to the jetty for the waiting steamers bo~d for the city piers. The Huon grows apples, thinks apples and exists on apples. The atmosphere is laden with them.
But this Huon Channel district does not live wholly on apples and small fruits. At Electrona I passed Australia's only carbide works, the limestone being obtained from farther south where there are mountains of it. There are, too, forests of milling timber, upon. which the many mills appear to have made little impression. As to the size and height of the trees, let me quote some astounding sentences from a book written hy D. W. Lewin and published by Gray Brothers in 1906:
4'The Peppermint trees (Euc. amygdalina) of Tasmania are admitted to be the tallest trees in the world. Some have been measured from 416 to 47! feet in height and one of the latter species reached 500 feet. In 1894 the Rev, T. J. Ewing saw over 100 of these trees, 40 ft in circumference, and measured one which was 6o ft at 4 ft from the ground. A spar of White Swamp Gum (Euc. viminalis) although of small diameter, 230 ft long, was sent to the London Exhibition of '862. When speaking of these giants it should be borne in mind that they are not isolated cases, mere cutiosintes, but that trees of from 200 to 250 ft are fairly common in the forests, ektcnding over thousands of acres in the fluon and Peninsula districts of Southern
·    Tasmania, rising high and clear of boughs, like the masts
·    of great ships. Many instanecs could he given of the
·    extreme height of the Eucalyptus. ElIwood Cooper in his
work on these trees says he has seen, in Tasmania and
Australia, Blue Gum larger and taller there than be has
seen the Redwoods of California."

Chapter Fourteen

 

 

 

Tasmania by Road and Track - by E T Emmett was originally published by Melbourne University Press.
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