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Chapter 5

I discover the worst-paid road contractor in the world, browse round Longford and Hadspen, go to school at Hagley, "fall in" badly at Deloraine and receive a present by post.

As I trudged along from Launceston on my way to Longford, trying to dodge the bitumen in favour of the grassy sides, I wondered what the road contractor would have said had he been offered the same reward that was earned by the maker of the first road between the two points. The undertaking was directed by Captain Ritchie, Commandant of Port Dalrymple, in 1813, the road-maker sending in an account for 30 pound, but making the sporting offer to accept "one cow in lieu thereof". On being informed of the road construction, Governor Macquarie despatched a formal authority to Lieutenant-Governor Davey to arrange for the issue of "one cow from the Government herds to the man who made the new road alluded to". We are not told whether Commandant Ritchie had called for tenders for the work. If not, it was a sad oversight, for obviously Longford might have got its road for half a cow or a few sheep had a little competition been encouraged.
The road that was built in exchange for the historic cow must have been appreciated in 1820, for on 10 November of that year Lieutenant-Governor Sorell decreed a general muster, which all and sundry were ordered to attend, the census including a tally of goods and chattels as well as of humans. The muster of three years later showed that the district of Norfolk Plains contained 204 free people, 349 convicts, 25,482 sheep, 3,513 cattle, 107 horses, 1,108 pigs; and there were 2,472 acres under cultivation. In 1820 Sorell had been "deeply impressed" by the necessity for a school, and though three years later twenty-seven children are listed as receiving instruction (probably in a private house) Governor Arthur in 1826 is still urging the building of a school. That road-maker of 1813 must have departed this life, or he would certainly have offered to run up a building in consideration of being presented with some addition to his livestock.
Longford's history may be said to date back to the early part of 1806, when Paterson reported to Governor King at Sydney that a river had been noticed to join with the South Esk. The junction of the Lake River and the South Esk is the site of Longford. The real "discoverer" was, however, Lieutenant Laycock who passed through the area and slept on the bank of the Lake River during the first journey from north to south, in February 1807. In June 1812, Macquarie directed that the district, which he called Norfolk Plains, should be the home of some of the settlers from Norfolk Island on their withdrawal in a few months' time. Farms were to be surveyed for them and they were to be fed and clothed at "Government
expense" for a stated period. These people were given from thirty to fifty acres of land, but they were not equal in calibre to the Old Country settlers of later years, and, with but few exceptions, they must be described as failures. It must be conceded that they were handicapped by lack of capital, but more than one historian has used the term "idle and dissolute" regarding them. Norfolk Islanders had no pan in the building up of this now rich and prosperous area.
In the infant days of the colony settlement was practically all quite near the two main towns of Hobart and Launceston, not only to be near the markets but for reasons of safety. Today it seems ridiculous to allude to Longford as an isolated area, but as late as 1823 a settler at Lake River (Mr T. O. Curling) tells of a neighbour and his men "going armed to plough", and of setting traps for bushrangers "to catch them like rats and mice". But those stalwarts of the first quarter century of settlement had their reward, for they watched the place grow into the Eden that it now is. As I walked those lanes and river banks on the quiet autumn days I was sure that I was in one of earth's most favoured places. Indeed, how could there be better? The plain is set between two great mountain ranges, the soil is fertile and watered by two large rivers as well as the regular rainfall, and the climate is equable. It is a veritable Promised Land.
These settlers of the right type began to dribble in during Governor Davey's regime (1813-17), the tempo increasing rapidly under Governor Sorell (1817-24). Some of them had had posts in the Imperial Service in New South Wales and Tasmania and resigned in favour of life on the land. They either brought with them or very soon imported plentiful supplies of acorns, willow slips, hawthorn and briar berries, poplar seeds and such like, because their lanes and roadsides, their gardens and orchards are just pieces of transplanted England. Later visitors, astonished by the appearance of the country, have declared that certain areas are "more English than England". Colonel G. C. Mundy who visited Australia in 1848-51 and wrote Our Antipodes says that there were in Tasmania "hedges of hawthorn the like of which I never saw before, even in England". And I recalled that when I accompanied General Pau's French Mission through the Cressy-Longford area one excitable member exclaimed : "This is not Australia : this is Picardy".
The obvious site for the residences of the early homeseekers was on the banks of the lovely South Esk River, and there they nestle with their gardens, their barns and wool-sheds and private jetties. This great river, its beginnings fed by the snows of Ben Lomond, is said to drain more country than any other Tasmanian stream. But it is not always well behaved. It overflows its banks in exceptional rains, and the 1929 flood forced residents to employ boats for egress from their top storeys and made the valley into a picturesque but most unpopular lake. It also carried away the historical seven-arch bridge at Perth (constructed of massive bluestone) which had been built in 1837-39 to replace the original punt.
One of the best known of the many estates is "Woolmers", on the Lake River, originally built by Thomas Archer in 1819, the "'new' building replacing it in 1834. Calling there for a few minutes and being hospitably entertained to morning tea, I was shown several rooms and was interested to notice the original hand-sawn floor boards and weatherboards, fastened with hand-made nails, a bedroom with a French four-poster bed and hangings, period furniture, and paintings of "Woolmers", "Panshanger" and others; Macquarie paid "a friendly visit" to the homestead, in 1821 on his return to the south from Launceston. At the same rime he named the nearby settlement "Perth" when he called on Mr David Gibson. When James Backhouse, the Quaker passed through Perth twelve years' later he remarked that there were but ten houses and two of them inns. It speaks well for our sobriety that though there are now ten times ten houses there is but one inn!
Walking round the streets of Longford today it is difficult to visualize the conditions in the days of the building of "Woolmers", "Brickendon", "Panshanger" and the many other substantial homes. Unfortunately, scarcely any of the settlers of the period and this applies to the whole island left any documentary account of their doings. They kept dairies, but no diaries! Even their early letters have mostly been destroyed. Just here and there a few have been brought to light, telling of the conditions that we have forgotten. Historic facts handed down orally from father to son become distorted or misunderstood. These pioneers were too busy overcoming their difficulties to record them.
Lack of instruction in education and religion must have constituted a major problem. Governor Arthur did good work in this regard. In ,1820 he placed a gentleman in charge of the "King's Elementary School" at Norfolk Plains. And no doubt the advent two years later of the Reverend R. R. Claiborne was appreciated, for he a combined farming and teaching. His terms were 35 pounds per annum, including board. An advertisement of his in December 1830, in a Hobart newspaper, reads quaintly today: "The Reverend R. R. Claiborne begs to inform the public that the Christmas vacation will terminate on January 20 and that his carts will be in Hobart Town at that time, when he will take to Norfolk Plains such pupils as may desire to avail themselves of the opportunity"
A small, badly-built church was finished in 1831, but later it was decided to build the Cathedral Church of the district, and in 1839 Governor. Sir John Franklin laid the corner-stone of Christ Church. Features of the church are the lovely west window designed by William Archer of Cheshunt', Deloraine, and presented by Mr Charles Reid, a resident, the clock provided by the Government, and the bell which bears the inscription that It was presented by His Majesty King George IV. Breaking through the briars and long grass in the oldest parts of the churchyard, some quaint inscriptions on the weathered stones reward the searcher. One frequently copied out by visitors is that above the grave of Solomon Farr, who died on 22 April 1833, his widow handing to the engraver the verses: -

O silent grave to thee I trust
'The precious pile of worthy dust.
Keep it safe O sacred tombe
Until a wife shall ask for room

And Charles Stephens who "died by lightning" On 19 November 1843, has: -

How many fall as sudden
Not as safe

Along the leafy lane that connects Longford with the main Launceston-northwest road, Hadspen is the first village, and there I paused a minute at the gate of the well-known estate Entally. Sixty years before I had accepted the invitation of the owner, the Hon. Thomas Reibey, to enjoy the hospitality that was a characteristic of these squires of old. I had travelled with him on the all night train by which he was returning north after his parliamentary duties in Hobart, and learning that I was interested in racing he insisted that I should have a look round the stables that had sheltered Stockwell, Malua and other celebrities of the turf. A sad relic of the time is the crumbling walls of a parish church started by Mr Reibey whilst he was a Minister of the Anglican Church. "Reibey's Folly", as the half-built church came to be called, was never finished by reason of Mr Reibey's resignation from the Church following a dispute with Bishop Bromby. But he built a stone chapel on the Entally estate where he and others conducted services for over a quarter of a century. The stately residence dates back to Thomas Reibey's grandparents who settled there in 1819. Most of the Governors from George Arthur onwards made visits to Entally In Governor Denison's memoirs is quite a lengthy account of his stay there in 1819. The estate was purchased by the Government in 1948. It has been suitably furnished and preserved as an example of an early colonial home.

Seventeen miles from Launceston is the little town of Hagley. To my mind, the principal exhibit is a modern one, to wit the Area School. Hagley and Sheffield were the first towns to experiment in education by the inauguration of Area Schools, one-teacher schools in the areas being closed and their children brought along in motor coaches to the central point The outstanding success of the Hagley school is mainly clue to the inspiring leadership of teacher J. S. Maslin. Housed in a building erected in 1865, the experiment began in 1931, and by 1935 the plans were formulated. Hearing the list of subjects taught, one would imagine that the "Three R's" have been overlooked, but this is far from being so.
This is such a practical school that the visitor cannot help being reminded of the immortal Squeers who after teaching a boy that "winder" spelt window made him go and clean one in order to ram the spelling lesson home At the Hagley school a boy might be called away from class to free a blocked gully-trap, put a new latch on the gate, or to re-glaze a window. The boys do all the work about the place and they learn woodwork, metalwork, concreting, building, agriculture They have a farm that was started on a capital of 8/8, but the Broken Hill Company donated 100 with which were purchased a Jersey cow, plough, harrows, cultivator and a draught horse. Pig raising, poultry fanning, gardening and other practical items are in the curriculum. The girls learn cooking, housewifery, dress-making, nutrition, arts and crafts. They run their own canteen, and I can personally certify to the excellence of the meal they turn out-with the meat or poultry and the vegetables grown on the premises.
A residential quarter was opened in 1941 - The boys staying there learn such useful crafts as hair-cutting, shoe-mending and the duties they would have to perform in an average home. And they even have a Parliament, with training in citizenship. Reports are compiled by the Ministers of Health, Farming, Poultry. Canteen, Sports, Social Service, Library, Cottage, Workshop, Garden. And don't think that the "Ministers" are merely playing. The capital value of the Poultry Farm is over 1000!
Publicity is not sought. for already it is complained that the number of visitors is embarrassing. An Australian woman critic wrote: "I don't like these schools. They are so attractive that the children talk about nothing else. It tends to make them dissatisfied with their homes". But surely too, it renders them competent to make and maintain homes.

Westbury is a charming and prosperous town with substantial buildings, tree-planted streets and a real "Village Green" of the good old English pattern. The estate of Westfield has been in the ownership of the Field family for over a hundred years. Horses bred at Westfield from important sires have left indelible marks on the annals of the Australian Turf. Colonel Mundy in his book Our Antipodes writes enthusiastically about a Westfield mare, The Farmer's Daughter, which he saw spreadeagle the field at Longford in 1851, remarking on the sensation she would cause in Rotten Row.

No mention of Westbury would be complete if it omitted the name of Daniel Burke who arrived in the island in 1830, when he was three years old. In 1853 he sheltered the Irish exile John Mitchell at Westbury prior to Mitchell's escape, I recall having sat next to Daniel Burke at the opening of a branch railway at Stanley. One of the guests gave a long quotation from Shakespeare, and hesitating for a word, was prompted by Mr Burke, whose age at the time was 92!

If a plebiscite were conducted to find the prettiest inland town in Tasmania, Deloraine would be high up on the list. The main buildings are substantial and ornate, church spires rise among the wealth of trees planted by a wise generation that has done its work and departed, the streets and roads wind round the hills, and the inevitable river bisects the town. Away behind the hills are the majestic Western Tiers, with the bold Quamby Bluff a detached peak guaranteeing a matchless new for anyone energetic enough to climb its steep sides.
The only criticism I can make of Deloraine is that it is cold in winter and knows what frosts are. There was a frost on the late morning that found me taking an early constitutional by the banks of the Meander. On my way back to the hotel I saw a vision that exceeded even the natural scenery on which I had been feasting. Three laughing girls ran along the path towards me, their short curls flying as they ran, "Stop," I commanded, "please; for I want to pay Deloraine a compliment through you. The girls in Sydney would give five pounds per square inch to have the complexion that this frosty Deloraine has bestowed on you;
"Thank you, sir," was the reply I got from one of the three, "we only arrived in this hole of a place from Sydney yesterday and brought our complexions with us in a little box. The Deloraine frosts have nothing on our George Street chemist!" And then we all went back to breakfast together. They ragged me unmercifully for my error, but
afterwards allowed me to enjoy their company at the Deloraine Cup. I have never met my charming friends since, but soon after I got back home a little packet of powder bearing the Sydney postmark arrived addressed to me. Inside was a typed message "For your wife if you have one. From the Three Frosty Faces."

Deloraine must have been a very tiny place when in 1856 was decided to make it the terminus of the first real railway to be constructed. A survey was duly made for a line from Launceston, but Parliament turned it down. Another attempt was made six years later, but it was not till 1865 that Parliament passed an Act for the formation of a company with a capital of 400,000. A poll of landholders was taken to ascertain if they would load themselves with a special rate to enable the Government to guarantee interest. The Duke of York turned the first sod on 15 January 1868. The company could not raise the required cash of 100,000 and managed to get Parliament to reduce the amount by half in spite of bitter opposition from a minority headed by an irate gentleman named Lowes, who declared the Bill to be a fraud and spat upon it saying it was all it was fit for. The first tender of some 200,000 omitted rails, rolling stock, stations and the Longford bridge equal to tendering for the construction of a house, omitting the roof, floor and chimneys and an additional 110,000 had to be provided. But in spite of its precarious birth the railway (gauge 5 feet 3 inches) duly reached Deloraine and Governor du Cane opened it on 10th February 1871. But things did not go smoothly for quite a number of years. The company lost money and the Government drove a hard bargain in taking over the line next year. But the real fun began when the Government tried to collect from landholders the rates they had agreed to pay. The Government having allowed the Main Line Railway Company to build their line from Hobart to Launceston without any tax on landholders, the good folk of the Launceston-Deloraine district objected so strenuously that there were riots. The tax collectors found premises barred and mastiffs turned on them, After a spasm of window smashing, pulling down of Government fences and the resignation of twenty-six police magistrates, the Government gave way on the special tax. Then of course the people who had no railways anywhere near them objected to being taxed to make up railway losses; but as their objections did not go so far as a riot they are still paying-and will till the crack of doom, for even if all these non-paying railways were scrapped tomorrow there would still be the interest on the borrowed millions. If the gentleman who expectorated on the Deloraine Railway Bill could come to life again he would at least be able to declare "I told you so: serve you right.
However, the railways, although they add to the tax-payer's. burden, have played a part in the development of the island that cannot he overestimated. Of the lines owned by the Government several have been abandoned and pulled up, but they performed a very useful job. in the latter part of the last century and the early part of this one in getting produce to market and thus opening up land that would otherwise have been idle.
At the time when no roads existed to Mount Bischoff and to the west coast, the Emu Bay Railway Company, which is still carrying on, stepped into the breach and brought the ores to the port of Burnie. The ruling gauge is 3 feet 6 inches; but for some of the spur lines to the mining centres it is only 1 foot. Their diminutive locomotives puff their way into the mountainous regions, much to the amusement of sightseers, but with benefit to shareholders in the mining ventures.

Chapter Six

 

 

 

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