Saturday, October 31, 2015

On the Road to Narawntapu - Yorktown

Symbol of hopes lost - here was to have been the capital of Northern Tasmania

I had my lunch at Yorktown where the B 741 turns off to go to the park. No town exits there now, just a pleasant picnic area and a historic walk, but it was the first settlement in Northern Tasmania and was intended to be the capital.
As rivalry between the French and the English intensified and Frenchman Charles Baudin's ships came passing by in the early 1800's, Lord Hobart instructed Lt. Governor King to immediately secure Bass Strait and Northern Tasmania by establishing a settlement there. In 1804 he sent Colonel William Paterson to do the job along with three ships, soldiers and convicts. The first ship, the Buffalo, foundered, losing all the cattle.  
Availability of water was its main attraction and the now Lt. Governor Paterson set about establishing barracks, a storeroom, a sturdy gaol, and three rows of cottages. Being a bit of a botanist himself and a friend of Joseph Banks, he also established an elaborate Government Garden. It was said to be at the foot of a waterfall, with a summerhouse, fruit trees and pathways, but alas, no trace remains.

Model of a soldier lurks in the bushes
 Access remained difficult throughout the infant settlement's short life. In wet weather, the low lying lands became a swamp and the settlement was frequently on the verge of starvation. This lead to some collusion between convicts and soldiers in stealing from the stores. When caught, soldiers were dismissed and convicts were executed. While Lt. Governor Collins was called to Sydney on business for nine months, his little settlement completely deteriorated. There was an attempt at piracy. Convicts escaped and became bushrangers, while the few remaining settlers lived by hunting kangaroo. When another herd of cattle almost perished on the way, Collins took the few survivors to the head of the Tamar (where Launceston now stands) where conditions were more favourable and thus the Northern capital was relocated there in 1806.

A few stragglers such the convict gardener who had looked after the Government Garden remained behind, but for the most part Yorktown was forgotten by history.

Have never come across one of these. What's a Pobble?

The fifteen minute walk takes you past the location of some of the buildings and a mock up of a soldier's cottage. It also identifies many of the plants and animals and gives faces to the names we have encountered in our history books.
In honour of his botanical efforts, Paterson has had a pretty flower named after him, the Patersonia occidentalis which happened to be in bloom while I was there.

His garden may be gone, but Paterson's real memorial -apart from the City of Launceston, is probably Patersonia occidentalis which was named after him

Other Diversions - Down at the Bookshop

On Friday I had an invite to have lunch with Magda at her book signing. Magda Subianski is a very accomplished comedienne probably best known for her role as the long suffering Sharon in the witty Australian  TV show "Kath and Kim."
Trust me you don't want to queue jump these people. It reminds me of a Trans Siberian train ticket queue
Yes, well that was me and about two thousand other people. The queues stretched outside the bookshop and down the street. Books may well provide food for thought, but no other sort was likely to be forthcoming.
Stress is beginning to show

I made some women very cross when I excused myself to look at books on the other side of the queue. I sensed a few people were spoiling for a catfight. Magda herself looked very tired. I imagine she has had to go through the same performance in every little bookshop in the country.
She is a real trouper and deserves every cent she makes from the book, but I'm not staying.

Apologies for the break in transmission. I have just been mobbed by a whole galaxy of witches and goblins

I forgot it was Halloween, the only occasion when I finally have the right clothes, the right hair and the right accessories, and I almost missed it.
My son did mention that he'd seen a lot of zombies around the town today, but I told him that I see them all the time and that they are mostly harmless unless you pull out their earplugs and shout at them.

Wonder what the trick would have been?
Luckily I had a stash of sour worms and some chocolate sovereigns left over from a pirate cake, so I never found out. Was that someone starting up a chainsaw though and was that Freddy getting ready to bound in?

I tricked or treated my neighbours. They gave me a chocolate first so I put on the costume I wore for Seven Deadly Sins last year - nice to give it another run . What is it that they say. It isn't what a garment costs, but the costs per wear. Only about 39 Halloweens to go.
May all your goblins be nice ones.

On the Road to Narawntapu * - A bit of Beaconsfield

Some of the impressive mine ruins  at Beaconsfield

*Asbestos Ranges in old money for Tasmanians. The name was changed in 1986 because of fears about a possible relationship with asbestos. There is no asbestos in the Narawntapu National Park although small quantities of this and other minerals were mined nearby. Now this Park is named after the Aboriginal tribe which used to live there.
I was always rather curious about this vast area of apparently undeveloped land  in the heart of northern Tasmania, even more so after flying over it last week, that I came back to have a closer look. Would have done it last week but didn’t have my walking gear with me, so here I was coming back for another shot. 

Good thing I waited. I encountered my first snake on this walk- sandals would have been a disaster and I was also caught out after dark, which made me very glad of my son’s second best state of the art headlamp. He doesn’t have as much need of it since he took up mountain biking and parenting.
Wished I’d paid a bit more attention though when he was showing me how to drive it. Tap it once and hold down x number of seconds and you get a spot light, hold longer or tap somewhere else and you might get red  flashing SOS’s. Anyway, I was lucky this time. Had light aplenty to walk 'home,' scare off predators, see wildlife and cook my dinner, though I must remember to stock up on batteries. Who knows how long those will last at that rate. With all the fancy gizmos it had, you’d think it would have some kind of meter like the computer saying “you have 50% battery left” or something.   A simple glow in the dark on- off button would suit me too. Then you could read the instructions. Perhaps that's what you get with top of the range.

The old Beaconsfield Bank
I didn’t think I’d get any walking in that day because it started off grey and drizzly, with a howling wind that almost blew the van off the Batman Bridge, so I spent a bit of time exploring Beaconsfield, starting with the historic bakery. Delicious apple turnovers – so huge that the one I started  for  morning tea lasted for afternoon tea as well.  Being the last town I would see before the National Park, I also stocked up on food and fuel.  I don’t know why I found it so charming. Sure there’s history – relics from Tasmania’s first and richest Gold Rush and a more recent one, some interesting buildings, good amenities, friendly people, well -kept  parks,  big old trees, clean streets with a few extra flourishes like seats and planters in the  main street and there are lots  of stories.
The Jubilee Bakery.  The front has been modernised but the back where the wood stoves are show its humble beginnings. I can recommend the Apple Turnovers!

Following the the gold strike there in 1869, Beaconsfield became the most populous city outside of Hobart and Launceston, with 53 companies working the field. By around 1900, all were consolidated  into the Tasmania Mine and by 1914, repeated flooding of the shaft led to its closure. With new owners and modern technology, the mine reopened in 1999 though "success was mixed." Then came the tragic accident on Tuesday, April 26, 2006, which claimed the life of one Larry King and trapped two other miners, Brant Webb and Todd Russell, almost one kilometre underground. It made headlines all around the world - I even heard about it in Korea (South) and help flooded in from all around Australia as well as the local community. 
The two surviving miners were finally rescued after fifteen days and both a film "Beaconsfield" and a book followed.
 In a nice little footnote, frontman of the Foo Fighters Dave Grohl, heard of the miners' request to have the band's music sent down on MP3 players, and sent a personal message via fax saying he'd like to meet them for a beer. Grohl's note read, in part, "Though I'm halfway around the world right now, my heart is with you both, and I want you to know that when you come home, there's two tickets to any Foos show, anywhere, and two cold beers waiting for yous. Deal?" In October 2006, one of the miners joined Grohl for a drink after a concert at the Sydney Opera House. Since then, Foo Fighters have written an instrumental tribute song called "Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners" appearing on the album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace." 
Nice one Mr. Grohl! Nifty tune too!

Memorial to Larry King and all those who assisted
I didn’t visit the museum this time as I had been there on a previous trip, but I learned a great deal about the town by doing the "The Walk of Gold." I'll only mention a few things here to give you an idea of the town and the flavour of the times. Of the many pubs that existed in its heyday, only three remain and one of them "The Exchange Hotel," is now a private residence.
 "The Exchange" became notorious for 'exchanging' money from a bank robbery and having its publican imprisoned in his own hotel, because the cells had not been finished yet. The signage tells of miners running the gaunlet of "porridge" - the five miles of muck that was Weld Street, between the hotels clutching beer bottles with candles and occasionally falling into deep holes, the only evidence being the disappearance of their light and the curses of their owners. Then there was Sister Gertrude who began the St. Francis Xavier school teaching astronomy, trigonometry, geometry, Latin Spanish and Greek, as well as being an excellent musician. The money for the quaint Holy Trinity Church across the way was raised with teas, concerts, socials, a dolls' stall, among other things.There is much more. I lke my history served up this way. It makes the place come alive.

Alicia Hall named after the eldest daughter of a mine worker turned politician,  was the venue for illusionists, roller skating, electioneering and watching silent movies. Despite a bomb being thrown during a political rally about conscription, "the arguments continued unabated"
The Exchange Hotel was the scene of dodgy dealings

The Trinity Church
Though some of the town's glory has faded now especially since the mine closed again in 2012,  along with some of the shops, the overall effect is one of welcome, unlike one or two other places I won’t mention, who have no idea about tourism. Retirees seem to have found it attractive too, as there are several new groups of villas as well. Indeed, it seems to me that the spirit of optimsim that has always driven miners remains. 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Quiet Day at Cornelian Bay

The Lord vault, largest in the cemetery, designed by Henry Hunter, colonial architect

Get ready for some cliches.The views are to die for. The location would make a real estate agent drool and the neighbours are very, very quiet. I am at Hobart's main cemetery set on a little promontory overlooking the water, just a bay or two from the CBD. Begun in 1872, on what was formerly the government farm, it is the final resting place of some 100,000 souls, including some relocated from inner city cemeteries when these became overcrowded and a health hazard.

The blacksmith's shop- last relic from Cornelian Bay's days as the government farm. 
It still works too

There they lie – the rich and the poor, the brave and cowardly, the paragons of virtue and the scoundrels and thieves, though you wouldn't necessarily know which was which from looking at the headstones. Death claims them all regardless. Even old enemies lie at peace  - Jews and Gentiles, Croats and Serbs, Russians and Americans, Greeks, Italians, Germans, Frenchmen, Poles, Yugoslavs, Lithuanians, the occasional Chinese and of course the Irish, the English and the Scots and that’s without even trying. The Cornelian Bay Cemetery has to be one of the most multicultural places on earth, much of it long before it became a buzzword. I had no idea that we had such a large Russian population,  dead or alive, or that there were enough Jewish emigres even among the convicts, to merit their own Chapel and Temple.

The double cross of the Russian Orthodox Church features prominently

The owner of this little marker was from Rio de Janiero

The French Memorial dedicated to those who perished on L'Astrolabe and La Zellee, in 1839 and 1840

The Jewish Section with the Receiving House also designed by Henry Hunter, in the background

This remarkable little synagogue in Hobart was built in 1845, by Ike Solomon a former convict who occupies the large vault on the right in the photo above (I only discovered this building last week!)
Millington's who now manage this and other cemeteries, have kindly sent me a map pointing out some of the more important structures and monuments. It reads like a who's who of early Hobart - the people who have lent their names to our streets and buildings and are remembered in our stories. 
Here for instance, lies our old friend, Martin Cash the bushranger – undoubtedly among the few in his profession to have died of old age. Here is the French memorial for those who perished at sea, there is the grave of The Blundstone family who arrived in Hobart in 1870 to begin their internationally renown  footwear enterprise.

This headstone reads," Erected to the memory of that brave but unfortunate Irishman, Martin Cash who died 26/8/1878, aged 67, R.I.P."
 Up the hill in the Anglican section is that of (Sir) Henry Jones "the Knight of the Jam Tin" whose jam  factory also became an international brand and lives on as the Henry Jones Art Hotel, one of the best addresses in town. A little further on lies Peter De Graves, ship builder, engineer, sawmiller and occasional inmate of debtor's prison who began the Cascade Brewery, still the oldest in Australia, in 1832.  He was also instrumental in establishing Hobart's fabulous Theatre Royal, also the oldest in Australia.  Then there are the big landholders, such as the Ashbolts, the Lords, Fosters and Camerons

Sir Henry Jones "Knight of the Jam Tin"

The Lords may have the biggest vault, but at 60 ft.  the Camerons have the tallest monument
David Lord became a foundation member of the Van Dieman's Land Bank, although his father had come to Australia as a convict. (Sir) Alfred Henry Ashbolt  started out as an accountant but on becoming a junior partner in Henry Jones' Cooperative Ltd.  rose to become a company director, a ship owner, shipping agent, a timber merchant and a tin mine owner and was appointed Tasmania's agent -general  in London. Though not mentioned on his tombstone his interest in dirigibles is noted. Not a poverty -stricken immigrant to start with, John Foster became one of the richest men in Tasmania through his land dealings, as a ship owner and merchant, hotelier, Legislative Councillor and company director of many companies including the Hobart Gas Company, railways, several insurance companies and coal mines. 

John Foster's family vault
Then there are the shopkeepers like Robert Mather, who started a small drapery business in Liverpool Street in 1882 where Mather’s Lane and Arcade now stand and went on to build a long lived empire. Likewise  Charles Davis, a former convict who started a  tin smithing company in 1842 and later expanded into hardware, ironmongering, hotels and motels, and became the fourth largest retailer in Australia. Joseph Bidencope should be here somewhere too, but I haven't found him yet.

Front Cover of a Mather's Catalogue which hangs in charming Mather's Arcade which has lots of little shops, particularly jewellers and cafes
 John Davies, another former convict, began the Mercury newspaper in 1854, still one of the longest running newspapers in the country. He also had a chequered career as an actor, hotel proprietor, police officer, politician and as proprietor of the aforementioned  Theatre Royal,  from 1854 - 1872.

.. and the masthead still flies

A little further on lies John Hadley of Hadley's Hotel, which enjoyed royal patronage and was popular with Antarctic explorers, Mawson and Amundsen, as well as that other famous Tasmanian son, Errol Flynn. Built in 1834, it was previously run by John Webb, a pardoned convict who is also buried here. Webb added an icerink and a ballroom. When Hadley bought it after Webb's death in 1891, he was among the first to install electric light in every room, telephones and an electric lift. It too remains one of the more exclusive  establishments in Hobart along with the Lenna in Battery Point, former home of shipwright Alexander McGregor who is also buried here.

Still grand. Hadley's Hotel on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets
The elaborate grave of  George Adams, which includes a lifesize bust reflects the esteem in which the public and most likely the state held him as founder of Tattsersalls Lottery and all -round philanthropist. He also started his Australian career with very little but after making a fortune from hotels and lotteries in Sydney, had interests in coal, electricity plants in Broken Hill, Newcastle and Sydney and owned the Palace Theatre there. When legislation was introduced to make gambling illegal, he moved first to Queensland and then to Tasmania. Although both states eventually outlawed most forms of gambling, the Tasmanian Government of the day granted George Adams an exemption. I'm sure it had absolutely nothing to do with his leaving a proportion of the proceeds of every lottery to two members of parliament in his will.

"The Man in the Hat" George Adams who founded Tattersalls Lottery is fondly remembered
I could go on and on. Every grave tells a story, even those simple markers that only carry dates and a hand-lettered name. There are tales of adventures and enterprise, of fortunes made and lost, the thrill of forging a nation at the height of the industrial revolution. Evident also are the trials of early settlers including the perilous journey across the sea and the high infant mortality rates from which even the wealthy were not spared. The rows of tiny graves in the children's section send a chill.

Part of the children's section
Modest but not forgotten

Not far from George Adams in the modern section, the most impressive graves are those of Hobart's considerable Greek community, maintaining their wonderful solidarity in death as in life. Mostly in black marble and adorned with flowers, they usually also have perpetual lanterns and pictures of the deceased. It is somehow very intimate - the dead feel less distant and you feel as if you know them too. One grave even has a small outdoor setting to enable family and friends to gather around, much as if the person were still around to share in family occasions. This one could be the grave of the Gypsy King, Tanas Stirio. It's the right location, but the spelling is different. He was the leader of a band "which roamed southern Tasmania in the mid 1900s."
Greek graves are amongst the most elaborate
Have a seat. Was this the grave of the Gypsy King,  Tanas Stirio?
Another very striking  much too recent grave is that of young Cain Lorkin, aged 22, who was by all accounts a motorcycle rider and much missed by both his family and his peers. The headstone bears a poem and a huge sculpture of an eagle as well as several lovely plaques.

One says ”Save a few seats in the bar upstairs and keep the beers cold mate, cause we will meet again and have a few together.” 
A little humour may not lessen death’s sting but it does make it less solemn. A spokesperson for Millington's says that a lot of the formality has gone out of funerals, also that cremation is becoming much more popular with around 60% of families preferring it to burials. Not a bad idea as the world becomes a more crowded place, though, while rose gardens are nice and much more sensible, they don't quite have impact of those enormous memorials. I also like the the little spot dedicated to those those "Whose ashes are scattered elsewhere" since it also gives people a quiet spot to sit and reflect. You could do worse than spend a little time with the departed. Me? Next time perhaps. Right now I have some business with the living, but it has been a fascinating journey.
Little sanctuary dedicated to those whose ashes have been scattered elsewhere

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Up, Up and Away!

Flying (with a little help from Eugene, the senior instructor and owner of the Freedom Flight Flying School)

Yep, that’s me flying that plane. This was another Seniors' Week activity and a very popular one at that.  Even the instructor expressed amazement at the number of people signing on for this, sensing a whole new and largely untapped market. While almost everyone enjoys flying, young folk rarely have the leisure or the disposable income to do so and those in their middle years have other, more pressing  issues on their agenda, such as getting established in their careers, paying off their homes, getting their offspring educated or simply putting food on the table, but I do think that there is another factor at work here as well.

Google Earth views

A bit of drizzle and turbulence
While younger generations have grown up with cars and planes as a fait accompli – you take them for granted, use them as you need them, without too much thought about how they got there or what life was like before they became available to ordinary mortals, but for those in their sixties and seventies, who most likely witnessed aviation go from flimsy single prop craft to jumbo jets able to carry up to  five or six hundred people, they were even more of an impossible dream. Only the ultra –rich or famous could ever hope to actually fly one, though the romance remained.

 The other odd thing I noticed while waiting for others to return from flights, was how many women not only took flying lessons, but how many had their own planes. Perhaps for successful women of a certain age, the small single seater is the equivalent of the red sports car or the yacht of their male counterparts, once they are left with empty nests and too much time on their hands. 

The weather improves
The plane is tiny. Even though I am short, I clout my head on the way in. There's just enough room for  the instructor and me to squeeze in, but I still need a cushion to be able to reach the foot controls. Strapped in and with helmets and headsets on, we do a warm up, a pre -flight check and then it’s “Flaps down” and we are cruising down the runway. After a quick turn to face into the wind, we roar along until the speedo hits sixty kph. Then the little plane lifts effortlessly into the sky and my heart gives that little jump you get when you have flying dreams.  I'm glad the plane has dual controls. Eugene radiates calm and it seems normal - the most natural thing in the world, and utterly safe.

 There are no words for that feeling of cruising above the confines of roads and into the blue and seeing the world unfold below - the patterned hills, the farms and vegetation, the convolutions of the river, waves breaking on beach after beach, the snow on distant peaks. It's all so close you could touch it and you long to go on and on over the blue curve of the ocean. The dream lasts until we approach Devonport - a full 15 minutes away. Then the illusion of untrammelled freedom gives way to the notion that there are still lots of rules and regulations, not to mention  powerlines, no – fly zones, other aircraft and the possibility of bad weather,  but the fantasy holds until touch down. 

Beautiful skies, endless ocean - Low Head lighthouse in the foreground

On the flight back, I try to keep the nose straight, but all the while I am mentally calculating what it would cost to get those other thirty lessons or so,  what the maintenance and fuel costs and the cost of renting, or buying and storing a plane might be. Then there are landing fees and the question of how to get around once you do in fact land at some remote airport. Ah well, it was a nice thought and a lovely experience. Thank you Eugene and the Freedom Flight Flying School! I am sure I'll be back.

What the eagle sees -waves crash on Baker's Beach, snow on Cradle Mountain in the background