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Chapter 16

I look at Hobart in 1804, toll for the passing of a nation, rest in a churchyard, visit some inns, find apples stored in a Grecian temple, dream of a generation's changes, baulk at describing Hobart's beauty and say "good-bye".

Whilst I was gathering material for this book, I had assumed that to conclude with a chapter on Hobart would be a comparatively easy matter I never made a greater mistake, for to try to compress Hobart into one chapter is to essay the impossible- and I realized this as I set out, with one day's "holiday" left, to explore the city I thought I knew so well. Feeling by this time somewhat footsore and weary after my little jaunt of some fourteen hundred miles, I was sorely tempted to spend at least half the day inspecting the historic building at the Macquarie Street tram terminus which waves its fairy wand over the mountain streams and changes them into the nectar widely known as "Cascade", and let this last chapter go hang. But I fought the temptation and what was left of my boot leather carried me by ten o'clock in the morning to Ocean Pier.

There was absolutely no trace that Hobart had begun here. Was it just a legend that there was once an island where "Mr William Collins has obligingly offered to construct a wharf"? Reclamation work has engulfed Hunter's Island as effectively as a tidal wave could have done. It would have been no more difficult for Hobart's first harbour master, William Collins, to envisage the modern Ocean Pier than for today's official to realize that one hundred and twenty-five years ago dense bush fringed the shores. The "rivulet of fresh water", the existence of which was partly the reason for selecting the site of Hobart, is now a dirty sewer and enters the Derwent a mile away from where David and William Collins knew it.

As I watched the 20,000 ton Oronsay stow into her capacious stomach a hundred thousand cases of the apples that would be in London in six weeks' time, I thought of that February day in 1793 when Admiral Bruny D'Entrecasteaux sailed up the river and named it Riviere du Nord, while a crowd of gesticulating black folk stood on the bank wondering-and fearing-what the white sails might portend. The following year they saw the ships of Lieutenant John Hayes who rechristened the misnamed "River of the North" the Derwent; and four years later came the little sloop Norfolk carrying the intrepid Flinders and Bass. Ships must have ceased to excite wonder by this time; the island was becoming too popular and the tourist business had started in earnest. If the aborigines' social system had run to "medicine men" it is almost certain they would have uttered a forecast that some year in February a shipload of these strange white people would arrive on the spot to stay, for that was the month that many of the voyagers chose. February 1802 saw the French Commodore Baudin sail up as far as Bridgewater; and exactly two years later the dusky watchers had to retire from their vantage point for ever, for David Collins landed his two shiploads of usurpers. This was five months after Lieutenant John Bowen had started the abortive settlement on the opposite side, at Risdon Creek.
"The Ocean and Lady Nelson" says David Collins in his despatch to Governor King at Sydney, "are lying within half a cable length of the shore in 9 fathoms of water." "Some harbour, this1." was doubtless King's comment; and so began the harbour controversy, Sydney versus Hobart, settled amicably to the satisfaction of both parties by two opposite answers. This southern harbour has undoubtedly run the Marine Board to some expense in length of piles, but it has not required the purchase of either dredge or tug. The depth of low tide is a mere sixty feet! As well as being one of the world's best harbours it is the cheapest to enter in the way of port dues and similar charges.
Turn over the leaves of Chaplain Bobby Knopwood's diary rapidly, beginning on 20 February 1804, and watch infant Hobart struggle into existence:

"Part of the military this morn went ashore, and a part of the convicts to pitch their tents. P.M. at four the Governor and some of the civil officers went on shore."
Next day: "I slept at the camp for the first time, and so did the Lt. Gov." ... "We see kangaroo, emews, pigeons, and parrots. In the eve the natives made a fire near where we slep. I din'd with Mr Lord (19 June 1804) at his new house." (The first in the colony; wattle and dab; name, "the house in the bush"; location, the corner of Harrington and Macquarie Streets) ... "See a large tyger ... Some of the people have died through want ... A pound of tea sold for six guineas ... The first party (11 February 1807) that have ever come from Port Dalrymple ... Hopkins ... opened a publick house . . . the natives have been very troublesome ... The Governor in his new house, the first time that he din'd there (2 December 1807)... Went in search of the head of the river but could not find it." (No wonder, Bobby! 130 years later there was still no road to Lake St Clair, 114 miles away.)

Only a century and a quarter have passed since this diary was penned, and since Governor Collins set up his printing press "under the tree in the woods" and wrote his despatch recording that the houses of the inhabitants "are indeed of the very lowest class of cottages and the officers themselves are scarcely better lodged". But time has pushed into oblivion, along with the chroniclers, the natives who were "near where we slep", the "emews", Hunter's Island, the "warf", Hopkins' public house, the Government House and several of its successors, Mr Lord's "new" house, the timber on the shore (then forbidden to be cut); and, happily, the convicts. Another few years will doubtless see the end of the "tygers" too. Around where these items were noted stands the biggest preserving factory in the southern hemisphere, stone warehouses, the Custom House and the big City Hall; motors and lorries snort on their busy errands, and trains freighted with apples or with returning tourists draw up alongside great ships.

On the spot where Knopwood's tent was pitched now stands the solid building wherein are housed the exhibits owned by the oldest branch of the Royal Society outside the British Isles, founded by Sir John Franklin. Thither I made my way, for though I am no scientist, the collection is of absorbing interest to the dullest layman. Tasmania's fauna is a link with the past. The "devil" and the "tiger" which still roam the forests of the interior, are found in other countries only in fossil form and in the oldest deposits. A skeleton occupying a prominent place in the main hall is that of the Nototherium Mitchelli, a marsupial rhinoceros, unearthed in a swamp near Smithton.

But the most striking exhibit, financed by a bequest from the recently retired caretaker of the Museum, is a small group of aboriginal figures grouped round a campfire. In another room is the skeleton of Truganini, the last of this ill-fated race, who died on 8 May 1876. The people, like the other animals, were survivals of prehistoric ages, their mode of living inferior to that of the cave-men of Europe. They had no habitations, no clothing, no implements except chipped stones. They did not use the throwing stick nor the boomerang of the more advanced Australian natives. Some of these arts, however, they did learn by contact with the mainland aborigines subsequent to settlement by the English. They could not even catch scaled fish, but lived mainly on shellfish, including crayfish which they obtained by diving. Where now the fishermen sink their "pots" on the east coast the native women fed their lords by diving to the bottom and bringing up a crayfish in each hand. Mostly they ate their food raw, but in any case their cooking was never more elaborate than throwing a carcase into the fire. Utensils they had none. The European cavemen could have taught these Tasmanians many skills, for they at least made bone needles and would certainly have sewn some kangaroo skins together to provide warmth against the snows of winter. The Tasmanians, literally, had not sense enough to "come in out of the wet". Theirs was a case of arrested evolution.

As I stood before the group of well-executed dummies, I visualized the passing of the race as a tale that is told; or, to employ a more modern simile, as a picture on a screen. The innocents as they were portrayed by Peron and later by the colonists of the early nineteenth century; the great mistake at Risdon when the feud that need never have been a feud began; the pitting of their poor wits against the methods of the white usurpers; the comedy known as the "Black Line"; the extraordinary feats of Conciliator George Augustus Robinson in bi4nging them in:
the tragedy of the last little colonies at Flinders Island and Oyster Cove; the burial of the last survivor, Truganini. Seventy-three years is not a wonderfully long life for a man: in that time a whole race disappeared.

But, having walked the waterfront, I am tired, and perhaps you will rest awhile with me on a bench in the park. I choose St David's Park, for it has been a last resting place for stauncher men than you or me-it was once a graveyard, and there is no better spot at which to linger and reflect on the changes, both architectural and social, that have taken place since Knopwood on 27 April 1804, along with Governor David Collins, "went and mark'd out a burial ground at a distance from the camp". Hobart has grown from a camp of tents to a city of fine buildings in that century and a quarter. We no longer celebrate the founding of a church by serving out "half a pint of spirits" to soldier and constable to mark the thanksgiving day. Gone are the original possessors of the soil, the murderers who roamed the bush, the striped-coated felons with their clanking chains, the gibbets nearby where the bodies swung in dreadful warning, the weary treadmills, the stocks, the cat-o'-nine tails and other features of a time when the poaching of a pheasant or a fish merited transportation, and execution was earned alike by the slayer of a man or of a sheep.
Collins' memorial stone is planted on the site of the first church, and the inscription records that he was "intrusted by His Majesty's Government with command of an expedition to form a settlement at Port Phillip". Had Collins carried out that order Victoria would have been settled
simultaneously with Tasmania. and very likely Hobart's streets would now have been climbing the hills round Risdon where Bowen pitched his camp. Abandoning Victoria, Collins libelled it by declaring it to be "an unpromising and unproductive country'. In production at any rate, Victoria has far outstripped the country that Collins chose in preference. There is some mystery attaching to the last days of this pioneer Governor, for we are told that he died suddenly on 24 March 1810, at Hobart Town, and that on the night of his death two officers of the Government, for some unexplained reason, burned all the official papers arid documents they could find.
Moving. a yard or two, we read the inscription on the tomb of Captain James Kelly. Had his epic voyage round Tasmania not been accomplished, Macquarie Harbour would not have been chosen as a prison place, and perhaps even Port Arthur would not have achieved its doubtful fame, since the latter was only selected because, after a trial, the bleak and unapproachable Macquarie Harbour proved unsuitable. Kelly's voyage, made in 1815, is conclusive proof that not all Britain's heroic manhood was at Waterloo. It is bad enough to skirt Tasmania's west coast in a modern steamer, but Kelly's conveyance was a whale-boat!
After this interlude enjoyed in sober fashion in a church-yard, for the sake of variety it may be fitting to follow our grandfathers into one or two of the old hostelries that still minister to the thirst of the wayfarer. The old days were hard drinking days, and when the buildings did begin to replace the tents an extraordinary proportion of them were public houses. There is an essential glamour surrounding many of these ancient inns. Some, as I said, are still carrying on; but others, derelicts of a previous century, are now used as stores, barns or private dwellings; and still others are past use at all-just walls with empty windows staring like sightless eyes, at the passer-by. Yet those gaping roofs once sheltered the jovial roysterers who were our ancestors. Coaches drew up at their doors, bushrangers adventured with their victims or their pursuers, and the local gossips foregathered for their nightly beer and talk of "cabbages and kings". The Old Commodore, outside which Martin Cash shot Constable Winstanley; still carries on business, though it now rejoices in the name of the Brisbane. I don't known which was actually the first public house to be opened in Hobart Town, but I do know that one of the very earliest was opened on 25 July 1807, and that there was an evening ceremony lasting from 8 o'clock to 11.30 at which the chairman was the Rev. Robert Knopwood. The Whale Fishery was the sign of the house, and the licensee was one Hopkins, servant to the Lieutenant-Governor. Where exactly was the site I have been unable to discover, though I believe it was off Harrington Street, and the signboard of the Whale Fishery has disappeared as completely as the whale fishery itself. Perhaps this is the place to mention again that it was ten years later before the reverend chairman who officiated at the opening of the public house was present at the laying of the foundation stone of the first church.
Doubtless, too, friend Knopwood was a visitor occasionally at the Ship Inn which has kept its licence intact since his day; so it will be fitting that we drop in there. Had we timed our visit for the year 1828, landlord Charles Day would have served us, and a few years later it would have been our starting place for Launceston at the early hour of 5
am, when Cox's mail coach began its fourteen-hour journey daily from this hostelry. In front of this inn we are told that a public flogging took place of which the Rev. Robert was a witness. There are many other houses that have celebrated their centenary, and which, like the beverage they sell, are "still going strong".
But time is passing, and we can only make one more visit. Let us take a little walk from the Lenah Valley tram terminus. Had the locality retained its original name the signwriters would have earned more money, for they would have inscribed: "The Vale of Ancanthe". I suggest that the sweet name of long ago has been changed for very shame, for there has been
criminal neglect in the failure to preserve a relic that Tasmania should have regarded as priceless. At this Vale of Ancanthe - is it too late to restore the name? - Lady Franklin in 1824 purchased 410 acres of bushland and placed a museum of Grecian design to hold collections and a library. The collections and the library have been scattered these many years; and as "Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay, might stop a hole to keep the wind away", so this museum, "built on a classic model", this bequest from Tasmania's most notable Governor and his Lady, was later used for storing apples! Fortunately, it has since been handed over to an organization that will use it fittingly - the Arts Society.

Tired with my rambling and thinking of the Hobart Town of my father's day, I sat and dozed before the remnants of the fire. The clock slipped back for a hundred years and more, and I imagined my father sitting before the fire at Beaulieu (built by his father in 1827 near the top of New Town hill and still standing). He too lights his pipe-a clay-but with a coal, for matches are not yet on the market. (I kept his tinder-box till it fell to pieces.) The fire that boils his kettle is made from logs he gathered in the bush round the house. His talk is not of ocean liners, for he has yet to see a steamer, but he mentions casually the 597-ton ship now in port, and that it is the first vessel to arrive in two months. The music he loves is produced by the piano that is so
treasured, for it was the colony's first, brought in the same hold as the first threshing machine, by the Regalia in 1819. We are apt to think that we, and only we, live in the age of wonders, but I can fancy now the quiet tones of the lovable philosopher voicing his wonder at the strides made since he was landed in than December of 1819 along with the piano and the threshing machine and Parramatta's first coach for transshipment to Sydney. Communication is now so frequent that there are sometimes three barques in at once, and coaches daily to Launceston and to New Norfolk! The first newspaper has come into being and the settlers enjoy the regularity of the efficient postal service-why, they were getting quite civilized and comfortable. And in later years I remember his wondering comments on the first steamer, the subjection of the blacks, the capture of the bushrangers, the first locomotive, the first safety bicycle, the telegraph and that extraordinary convenience the telephone, the electric tramway with its double-deckers-but not in his time electric light in the city. Yet unborn were the phonograph, the motor car, the cinema, the aeroplane and the wireless. We appear to have made some not inconsiderable strides in a generation.
Indeed it is difficult to believe that such changes could occur in one lifetime. The Tasmania of my youth has virtually disappeared. Possibly the greatest factor has been locomotion, with the passing from coaches to railways, motors and airways. Distance has been annihilated. Strawberries picked in
Hobart in the morning can be eaten the same day in Brisbane over a thousand miles away. Even a journey to our Mother Country can be measured in days instead of weeks. And obviously the use of electricity has transformed industry. The advent of refrigeration has opened up wider markets for primary products. Forests looked upon by early settlers as a nuisance, have become sources of wealth through sawmilling and paper making. Tasmania's exports by sea in 1870 were valued at about six hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds, whereas in 1950 the value was nearly fifteen million pounds, and in addition many valuable cargoes were freighted by air.
Another source of income that was practically non-existent half a century ago is the traffic in holiday-makers, and the tourist business must he worth millions to the island. In the summer months the sign "house full" might he exhibited without exaggerating the position as regards the hotel and guest-house accommodation.
When it comes to reminiscences, I can go back in my own memory to 1876 when I have a dim recollection of my father saying sadly, "Queen Truganini is dead". Whom Truganini was or what a Queen was I did not understand, but my father's recollections, passed onto me as fireside stories, went back to about 1826, with, of course, the experiences of his own father added- I gathered that the family on arrival at Hunter's island jetty were taken in a punt or dinghy up the rivulet and landed a few steps away from. the hotel, which was either the Bird-in-Hand or the Ship-My father remembered vividly the laying of the foundation stone of the Theatre Royal, in November 1834, by John Lee Archer, and the salvo of guns that greeted the birth of what is now Australia's oldest theatre. He missed the arrival of Sir John Franklin, for he went to Circular Head for the V.D.L. Company in 1835 and did not return to the capital till after he had joined the rush to the Victorian goldfields in 1852. He played with the aborigine children and had many stories of them and of the personages of the time - Bobby Knopwood, Jorgen Jorgensen, Anthony Kemp and others, of his companions of the "Black Line" and of his explorations. Had he kept a diary it would now he worth a good deal more than the gold he won at Ballarat.
Perhaps I should mention that the family at landing missed by two years the sight of the gibbet near the wharf, for in 1817 it had been moved to Queenborough Point, one reason being that the sight of a dangling row of dead male-factors seemed to be somewhat affecting for females to witness. Presumably the new gibbet was of more ample dimensions, for the remark attributed to Chaplain Knopwood regarding the
original contrivance was that it was ''comfortable for five, but crowded for six''-
Nevertheless, when we take into consideration both the class of beings in the settlement and the wide range of crimes punishable by death, the executions were not really numerous. From 1824 to 1838 the
executions averaged fifteen a year. The highest number was in 1826 (53), and of these only nine were for murder, the remainder being for stealing, burglary, highway robbery and housebreaking.

But here I have come to the final chapter and have not made one reference to the beauty of Hobart. It is scarcely necessary, for its charm is universally admitted, and to stress it is only to say for the thousandth time the same thing in different words. But even here historical records may be brought into use, and I will quote from the pen of an exile who might well have been forgiven had his impression been blurred by the sadness of his arrival. Thomas Francis Meagher on 27 October 1849 wrote as his ship approached the town, "Nothing I have seen in other countries-not even my own -equals the beauty, the glory of the scenery". When I say that that opinion of a hundred years ago still stands and has been echoed by thousands, I allude of course to the natural features, and not to the man-made portion.
The whole of this book except the final chapter has been a delight and a labour of love. To do justice to the most beautiful of Australia's capital cities needs a book, not a mere chapter. Perhaps I shall write that book if time spares me; but more likely I shall leave it to someone else. And so my last words falter between "au revoir" and "good-bye"

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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