The Irish and their contribution to Tasmania

11/4//2019

St Patrick’s Day is an event that is widely celebrated and promoted. The wearing of the green and of the shamrock is fashionable throughout the world. Festivities take place to recall and declare all things Irish. With the celebration of St Patrick’s Day, one wonders and ponders on the contribution that the Irish have made to Tasmania.

We tend to think that the majority of convicts who came to Tasmania were Irish; but this is not true. About 25 per cent of all convicts were Irish, therefore leaving more than 70 per cent being English, with a spattering of other nationalities and races making up the rest. Interestingly enough out of all types of convicts, the Scots were the best educated, the English had a literacy rate to some degree of 50 per cent, the Irish the lowest. Most of the Irish convicts were sentenced because of criminal acts, but many also were victims of a defective land system, which meant the peasant became increasingly dependent on the landlords. Many were transported on what was called “White Boy” offences, ranging from disturbances and taking illegal oaths to stealing cattle, sheep and horses, particularly in times of hardship, such as the potato crop failure. The worse offenders were transported to Van Diemen’s Land then to Macquarie Harbour.  Peak times were during the 1830s. There were also political prisoners and here I must mention the seven Irish exiles to Van Diemen’s Land, John Mitchel, Thomas Francis Meagher, John Martin, William Smith O’Brien, Kevin O’Doherty, Terence MacManus and Patrick O’Donohoe, They were sent to their penal home in 1849 and 1850.  Several successfully escaped while, one was caught in the act and the others were pardoned by Queen Victoria. Three of the seven exiles were Protestant. 

So what has their contribution to Tasmania been? In one word: enormous! As with many thousands of Tasmanians, from a very difficult beginning they carved a life for themselves, foundations of which seceding generations have built on. The Irish blended in well. Sure, they kept their religion and their pride in being Irish, but over all there was little confrontation in Tasmania.  Most worked hard, many made good for themselves.  Hard, working, law-biding, moral, strong family people. Was it a struggle? Of course.

Our Irish Legacy in Tasmania lives on. The Irish largely settled towns such a Richmond and Westbury and many Tasmanians have Irish names, both Christian and Surnames. Out of their religion come magnificent cathedrals such as St Mary’s and St Joseph’s. All Labour Premiers of Tasmania until Eric Reece were of Irish and Catholic stock. One of the most colourful and interesting Premiers, was Dwyer-Gray who was of this ilk. He was a staunch Tasmanian who actively worked for secession, believing Federation had not been kind to the island he loved and served. True like many Irishmen he loved the bottle, which was a bit of a problem. We must not forget that our international film star, Errol Flynn was of Irish stock. Errol was more prone to claim Irish ancestry than his Tasmanian origins, perhaps something we Tasmanians may wish to forget.

Militarily of course, their contribution to our war effort was strong.  Perhaps during the Boer War, they sympathised with the hardy Boer, but during World War I their contribution is without question and they suffered the price as well as everyone else.  Indeed the Irish participation in the war on the side of the British was enormous and that is why the Irish uprising in 1916 was a failure. During World War II of course they had so harmonised with the rest of the population they were no longer, by a large degree, distinctive to the rest of the population.

Our affection for Ireland should be strong, not forgetting that the influence that it has had in shaping our State which cannot be underestimated.  Irish humour is world renown. They have the wonderful ability to be able to laugh at themselves, something which (and they may not like to admit it) they have in common with the English. We all have our “Irish” joke. Maybe politically incorrect, but the beauty is, the Irish join in.

Categories People

Australia Day and Just who was Betty King

1/2//2019

Just outside the Derwent Valley town of New Norfolk is the rural community of Back River. The Back River Chapel was once an old Methodist worshiping house. The cemetery grounds contain a number of First Fleeters from January 26th 1788, one being Betty King. Betty has the distinction of being the last First Fleeter to die (1856) in Tasmania and perhaps Australia.

Betty also has another incredible distinction. She claimed to be and indeed it is mentioned on her tombstone, the first white woman to set foot in Australia. Now I know there will be claims that a French woman who, it is said, dressed as a sailor on two French vessels that anchored off Reserche Bay (1792 and again 1793) who was the first to do so. Let’s be fair, however. Even if she was aboard there is no evidence she came ashore.

So was Betty the first? Well, we should look at her story. Admittedly there is no record backing up her claim, but as she was a convict this is not all unusual.

Betty arrived as a prisoner and a somewhat troublesome one. The surname King came later after she lived with a marine, Samuel King, when spending some time on Norfolk Island. There is debate what her real name was, Thackey, Thackay, Thakcery, Hackery or Hackley.

After many months at sea, the First Fleet under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Botany Bay 20th January 1788 and six days later Phillip journeyed to Sydney Cove with a permanent settlement.

Betty and Samuel arrived to Tasmania after she had gained her freedom and they were married in 1810 by pioneer priest, Rev Bobby Knopwood. They settled at Back River and called their property ‘Kings Rocks’’.

Samuel was to die in 1849 while Betty lived into her early 90s dying 7th August 1856. Before passing on Betty told her amazing story to the father of land owner, Henry Shoobridge. She said that at the time of arrival January 26th 1788 she was acting as a Lady’s Maid.

She related that it was to be the Officer’s ladies who were to set foot on land first of all. However, they did not like the look of the surf through which they were to be carried with the possibility of getting a wetting. Just to be reassured they asked that a maid (Betty) be carried ashore first as a rehearsal. This was apparently done and as it was only a preliminary trial there was no official record was kept of it. However, no official account alters the fact of the incident, which was that Betty was carried and dropped ashore. In a letter dated 29th Mary 1955 Henry Shoobridge states this. The story does indeed seem feasible.

So impressed was Henry Shoobridge he placed a tombstone near to the exact spot of her burial, it reading,

Near this spot
Was laid to rest
BETTY KING
The first white woman
To set foot in Australia

I am constantly amazed how this most interesting and important historical feature is not better known or promoted. It is a gem.

Tasmania has of course quite a number of burial places for First Fleeters (including one of my own ancestors) who came on the first Australia Day, now 231 years ago. Our connection is quite significant.

From that beginning various colonies came together 1st January 1901 to form the new nation of Australia. It came not by violence, revolution or civil war, but the Mother Country saw it was time for their child to grow up and leave home and to go its separate way. It’s a marvellous story. Right from the start that was the case, embracing our own Constitution and signing the Versailles Treaty of WWI in 1919 as an independent country. We developed our own peculiar form of government, adopting the Westminster system of Mother Britain and as we were a federation, modelled the Federal Upper House on the American Senate which was promoted by our own Tasmanian, Andrew Inglis Clark.

The point is of course, there would be no nation of Australia without the first settlement on January 26th 1788. Everything has to have a foundation and the foundation of our nation, which is the envy of the world, was on that date.

Australia has changed over the last few decades, sometime for the better, sometimes not. I have stated in previous publications that we are no longer a united nation, but Australia Day January 26th is the day which can bring us all together regardless of social, racial, religious or political affiliation. There are cries every year to change the day, but a poll conducted last week by the Sydney research firm, Research Now has found 75 per cent of Australians want the date to remain. That is huge. A poll conducted by a publication (of a left wing persuasion) in January 2017 said the same, with new arrivals providing a higher per cent. Fifty per cent of those Australians who claim aboriginality voted to keep the day as it is. Jacinta Price, Aboriginal Councillor for Alice Springs stated on the ABC Drum last year we should keep Australia Day January 26th and that any push to change is divisive. Well known political aboriginal activist, Warren Mundane said there are much more important things to worry about if we are to solve aboriginal health and wellbeing. The late Sir Neville Bonner, the first aboriginal senator, agreed.

Recently I was contacted by email regarding the fact that a number of people in London will also be celebrating Australia Day at the bust of Admiral Arthur Phillip (January 25th) which will be the 26th here. I was quite moved by this and they sent me a photograph of their observance for 2018.

We are a great country, despite our differences and problems. The question must be asked of everyone where else would you like to live? If of course you prefer somewhere else, then that is your right and choice and you have the option of leaving. Me, I chose to stay here.

Categories Events

Are our freedoms being erased?

10/1//2019

It is often said that in Australia we live in a free society.  Yet over the decades I have seen freedom of speech, thought and movement erased by stealth. This trend to control people is very dangerous.  Our politicians and governments who should protect the electorate’s freedom are often the very ones who are taking it away.

As one who was born post WWII, I can reflect growing up in the 50s, 60s and into the 70s and how much freedom we had compare to what now exists.  Those who were born in the post 90s understand very little how it was.

The past decades were far from being a perfect world. Alcoholism was a very serious social issue. Pondering on this fact I put a lot of it down to the war.  Men returning in their hundreds of thousands, adjusting back into civilian life, endeavouring to adapt without a great deal of social help and with severe psychological problems turned to alcohol. Yet we were a united nation….true there were divisions, Labour versus Liberal, Catholic and Protestants, but these divisions were not out of control.  The tensions between Catholics and Protestants were played out on the school boy’s football field with perhaps a black eye as a result.  Today in modern Australia we are divided not only on race, but culture, sexual orientation and religion. We don’t seem to be able to agree on anything. I have seen my country once united now developed into a country divided.

The social manipulators tell us this is all very good, but it has produced severe tensions and frictions.  I am reminded what Christ said (as endorsed by Abraham Lincoln) “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. I much prefer the wisdom of Christ than that of the politically correct.

There was little fear in previous years of being frightened in what you said and wrote and having now near fifty years of published experience I know how it has changed. Today you can be prosecuted and persecuted for speaking one’s mind and having an opinion, particularly with the legislative powers of 18C (federal) and Section 17 here in Tasmania which is even more repressive than the former.

 One could move about without the horrid control which exists now.  In those days a trip to the airport was pleasant.  Now it is an unfriendly place where one is looked upon with suspicion.  Tasmanian Parliament House you could walk in as you wish; now you have to go through rigid security and to leave, your access is blocked, which I think is quite illegal impeding your right of progress.  This is all because of “terrorism “, yet I wonder whether this is often used as an excuse.

Going to a place of entertainment like football or cricket can also be unpleasant.  Security guards even approach one outside the stadium to check your bags (again I believe this quite illegal as you are on a public place).  Once in, you are a captured audience exactly the same with the Hobart Cup.  In past years one was able to take one’s own beverages, now it is not permitted forcing everyone to buy what is offered at inflated prices.

There was very little control in past days when attending local football.  It was fun and casual with only a constable or two in sight.  Now there are dozens and dozens of security guards of dubious talent.  Something has happened to society.

The other issue which one did not have to content with was drugs.  Even in my early twenties, I never came across the scourge.  Today of course they are everywhere, even with primary school children, resulting in crime that is often brutal in the extreme.

A couple of years ago I went to a book launch at a primary school where the author told the students they have the right to say what they want without being threatened.  That may have been the case, but it is not so today.  With political correctness, people are fearful of repercussions if they speak up, try to contest the status quo or act independently. Of course, most of us will agree to the concept of freedom of expression, but herein lays the problem;   most will only tolerate freedom of expression if that opinion agrees with them. We are afraid of offending others who have a variety of ways to silence those who offended them and take vengeance.  Yet freedom of expression can only exist when one has the right to offend.  People have become too sensitive and too self-centred.  I never thought I would live to see the day when Australia had to pass legislation to protect freedom of religion.

Mankind’s march for freedom began thousands of years ago.  Socrates faced it, even in liberal Classic Athens, by questioning the gods. He was convicted and died as a result.  Yet through those thousands of years, the inborn desire for freedom has always been present and won not only on the battlefield, but through the corridors of power. Both Benedict Spinoza and English Liberal John Locke developed a political theory where natural rights were protected by governments. However, with the growing power and interference of governments, the opposite is happening.  Our rights are actually not only being curtailed but being taken away from us. The weakness of the party system is of course that most politicians will do exactly what their party tells them to do. If you don’t, you will not survive within the system.

Political correctness, which is simply people control, now dominates the entertainment industry, corporate Australia, advertising, art, science, professional sport, the public service and education. That is why it is imperative to safeguard the freedom of the press.

Things have certainly changed and one can site much more.  If they continue as they do, I can see us entering a new dark age.  Freedom will only come if the people take a stand. The hunger for freedom cannot be stifled regardless of the efforts of those in control and it is deliberate; it is not happening by accident.

Categories In the news

Let's reflect on the good that comes from January the 26th 1788

1/11//2018

The criticisms, indeed attacks on January 26th being Australia Day has already begun proceeding our national holiday for 2019. Charges from groups and individuals state it is offensive to a section of society and that it is quite inappropriate to hold it on the day the first British settlers arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788.

Councils nation-wide, even in Tasmania, have moved their citizenship ceremony from that date, Perhaps many of those Councillors are forgetting that they are there to represent the people as are all politicians and not themselves.  They are as our representatives.  Those Councils that have forced their opinion on the rest of their municipality have done so without their consent or support.  There is an easy way of finding out the mood of the people and that is by a simply municipal referendum on the subject. Of course they would not want to do that as the result most possibly would not go their self-opinionated way.  As one who is in favour of Citizens Imitated Referendum (CIR) this is one way to not only to let governments know what the people want but also a way to curb excessive government power and ambitions.  That governments and politicians hate the concept means it has a lot going for it.

Back to Australia Day.  There are those who say we should have the national birthday on the first sitting of Federal Parliament in Melbourne (May 4). Others say it should be January 1, the date of Federation. Under the previous Gray Tasmanian Government, Tasmania Day was inaugurated November 24, the day Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted our island.  To have a national day on the date of sighting is unusual.  Right across the world national days are usually held on the date of settlement or independence. Hence January 26th is most apt, the day Governor Arthur Phillip, half German half English, set foot on Australia’s shores which was the foundation of the nation.

From that humble beginning near 231 years ago (Jan 26 2019) settlements spread out across the continent. Towns and cities were established, farms and stations developed as did industry. Trade boomed, mining, communication with the coming of the telegraph, education, charities, churches and parliamentary democracy (to name but a few progresses) all occurred within those very first years. Self-governing colonies arose such as Tasmania (1856) just 53 years after Lt John Bowen’s raw settlement at Risdon Cove in September 1803.

Then the nation federated becoming one nation in 1901. Great strides rapidly eventuated with booming cities and centres, freedom of speech and movement, legal protections for the individuals and groups and we can go and on to the point where we were strong enough to fight successfully two world wars despite all their horrors.  Post WWII saw a nation where, it would seem, most of the world wished to share our lifestyles and freedoms (although these are under threat from within).  We have done something right.  We have been successful even though there are those who are among us who criticise everything good about this country.  Herein lies a truth; they can do so without any threat of persecution or even gaol.  This fact is never admitted by those who wish to change society to their way of preference. 

Unpalatable as it may seem to the critics, but a great deal of this heritage goes back to those beginnings of British settlement in 1788.  Was it perfect?  No it was not, but human nature is not perfect and those who again criticise, look at yourselves…are you perfect?  Do you make mistakes?  Do you error sometimes badly?  Of course you do. Nonetheless, what developed from January 26th 1788 has been an outstanding success.

One must be blunt and again it will be unpalatable for some.  The fact of the matter is if the British did not come here in 1788 or to Tasmania in 1803/4 none of us would be here, excluding naturally the full blooded aborigine; the government in Canberra would not be here (nor in Hobart), nor local government, none of our institutions; I would not be here (happy for some I suppose), our cities would not be here and so on, but perhaps one can get the point.

What occurred January 26th was the foundation of our nation.  From that date developed, albeit slowly at first, then very rapidly a nation which is the envy of the world. For me, I would not have wanted it any other way.  Those who have come to our shores know and appreciate this fact.  Very few of our new arrivals are calling for the abolishment of our national day or for the abolishment of our national institutions, symbols and traditions.  The call for change come from a very well-oiled and funded (mostly with tax payer’s money), often over educated with plenty of time on their hands.

Categories Events

Cambria

13/9//2018

What type of tourism should Tasmania have?

True tourism is when the visitor experiences the life and the environment of the locals.  In essence they blend in and absorb.  There is another type of tourism which has become very prevalent and could be called “manufactured” tourism. This is when visitors in large numbers arrive only briefly and then leave our shores really not experiencing the real Tasmania.

Tourists of this manufactured kind can over stay their welcome.  This is currently being seen in Europe where places like Venice (Italy) reveal that the residents have had enough because of their lives being dramatically altered. This type of ugly tourism can make the natives feel like living in a zoo.

The proposed Cambria Green resort project is one of these manufactured tourist schemes, which do not entirely benefit the locals changing their lifestyle. It certainly will benefit the big end of town and for governments, State and local who then can boast of growth figures, even though the economic positiveness is not passed down to the general population.

The original Cambria is of great historic significance to Tasmania and perhaps more can be made of this for Tasmanians and visitors alike. It was the home of George Meredith with Cambria being the ancient name for Wales.  It was known as “Government House” with a procession of Governors and their wives staying there. At one time son Charles (who was to come a politician and there is a memorial to him on the Queen’s Domain) and wife Louisa Anne lived on the property.  Louisa was an outstanding observer of colonial life and society.  Described by historian Douglas Pike as a “poet in feeling” she was much more than a writer, but also an artist, naturalist and botanist who achieved international fame. She wrote of Cambria: “commands an extensive view of large tracts of bush and cultivated land and across from Head of Oyster Bay of the Schoutens.”

Now it is to be a golf course, 100 room five star hotel (where locals cannot afford to stay), 300 units and an airstrip.  While the developer said the historical aspects of the property will be maintained, one wonders how will this be achieved. 

To be truthful it will only be a playground for those overseas visitors who can afford it.  They will fly in (own airstrip) enjoy the manufactured surroundings, then fly out….what have they really seen or experienced of the true Tasmania?  Little.

I have said it before and I will say it again, Tasmania’s attraction is being Tasmania; in other words, being unique.  Our lifestyle, our small population, our history, the scenery, quality of product, our distinctiveness is what attracts people to our beautiful island.  We can boom with proper visitations, but these “playgrounds” will only destroy our lifestyle.

I repeat, the true experience of tourists should be to experience the REAL Tasmania.  As an example of this, some years ago I was employed to take a day trip of visitors from New Jersey in a mini bus.  The itinerary was ridiculous.  Picking them up from the boat, I first took them up Mount Wellington, then to Salmon Ponds, then to National Park, then to Richmond and the finally back to the departing vessel. All within a few hours.  They were totally exhausted and some of the elderly ones complained – and quite frankly I did not blame them.  I thought the whole thing embarrassing. Did they see the real Tasmania? No.

It is pleasing that many community groups have taken the time to protest against the Cambria development with similar developments going on throughout Tasmania.  The problem is of course in such circumstances, whole areas are changed dramatically and forever and after the damage, the developer moves on to another project and does likewise.

Do we need development?  Of course, we can’t stay in a time warp – but we can have good and controlled development.  Can we have a successful tourist industry which is welcomed by the locals and not abhorred?  Of course, but not this ugly and stressful input.

On many occasions the local are treated like second class citizens because of the perceived need to attract huge numbers of visitors.  As another example, when booking into a Tamar resort I also booked a seat for dinner in the dining room.  In the meantime, two large tourist buses arrived and because so, I was delegated to the bar.  In the morning hoping for a fine breakfast I found that the tourists had already come and gone, leaving little left; it was like a horde of locusts had descended on everything.  Leaving the premises to return home, I, stopping at a dining premises down the Mainland, was refused entry because a tourist bus had come and there was no room. This type of thing can only build resentment from locals.

The developer has stated that those who will be staying at Cambria will be people from China and finance will be coming from both China and the USA.  To be quite frank I am tired of our politicians who are prepared to sell our real estate out to the highest and short term buyer.  To those who may charge me with “racism” let me say, the Cambria development in its present form from any nationality would be opposed by me.

The fact is that such a massive development with change the attractiveness of the area.  It is true I do not live in Glamorgan, although I am a member of the local history society and and my family, the Watsons, were colonial settlers.  However, the east coast is also the playground of all Tasmanians and quite frankly, we do not like our State exploited.

Categories In the news

Religious Freedom

23/8//2018

It is strange that Australia has an inquiry into the need to protect religious freedom and religious expression.  We will see what the report is like when it is handed down by Philip Ruddock.

I say “strange” because I thought there would never be a need for it in Australia. This freedom has existed for many years as it is part of our inheritance from Great Britain and guaranteed in our laws.

This is obviously no longer the case, otherwise it would not be necessary.  Things socially are ever so different to the 50s and 60s, even the 70s.  The younger generation, say from the 80s, have little understanding how it has changed.

When we say “religious freedom” we are in reality meaning Christian freedoms.  Christianity was brought to our national shores in 1788 and to Tasmania in 1803. Britain of course, has been home to Christianity for 1300 years, longer elsewhere in Europe. It has been a part of our culture and heritage.

It was Alfred the Great who codified much from the Old Testament into English law and down the ages we have inherited The Magna Carter, the 1689 Bill of Rights, English Common Law, trial by Jury and Habeas Corpus all resulting from a country with a Christian background.  In Australia we have our own Constitution, which states in its beginning paragraph “relying on the blessings of Almighty God”.  This part was added by the insistence of the Churches of the day, excluding the Seventh Day Adventist Church which took the view that if such a wording was added it would force Sunday worship upon them rather than Saturday.  This obviously did not happened

Whereas “almighty…God” was neutral in its emphasis it was clearly to mean at the time, the God of Christians.

Down through the centuries it has influence dramatically our ethics, morality, modesty, principles,art and consciousness.  There is no denying there are faults; any Institutions developed by imperfect man will fail to some degree.  Over all it worked very well with many leading charitable organisations and acts emanating from Christian belief, not just here in Australia, but world-wide and many examples can be cited.

Australia since settlement has not been a strong church-going community, unlike say the United States. Even in the hey-day attendance percentage-wise would not have been more than fifty percent of the population.  Yet, the influence was there and people though nominally Christian did respect its Institutions and certainly used it for Sunday School, Christenings, Confirmations, Weddings and funerals.  During WWI ninety per cent of our soldiers declared themselves Christian.

Today by recent statistics only about fifty per cent of the population now give the title “Christian”.

In the 50s it was all so different and it was just taken as the norm that what was will continue.  I remember all too clearly when on Christmas Day, all radio stations (and later in the early days of television) played religious music as they did at Easter.  Sundays was indeed a day of rest, with most businesses, sports and entertainment taking a break.  It was a day for church, going on picnics, visiting or being visited. Today of course Sunday is very different, our roads are full of traffic, sport is the new religion, shops are open and while our communication has expanded technologically, we communicate less with each other including families.

All what was has gone and I really do not think for the better.  Society must believe in something and that “something” will determine how we view things and our attitude to situations. It appears that we are still searching for Christianity’s replacement.  There is no such thing as a vacuum as people crave for something.  To some it appears to be socialism, environmentalism, militant atheism, science and even hedonism – whatever.

To some extent the fault does lie with the Churches themselves.  It is apparent such institutions have not fulfilled many people’s spiritual requirements. One naturally has to refer to the appalling publicity which many, particularly of the established mainstream churches, have been subject to.  This has disillusioned many of faith.  Herein lays the problem, because people have placed their faith on man-made institutions and church leaders, rather than the faith itself. Yet that is an easy statement to make. It must be very difficult for those ‘good’ and ‘sincere’ members of the cloth who are now under unfair suspicion.

We do live in a post Christian where the religion and Christians can be subject to criticism, attacks, mockery and even abuse which would not be allowed if the target was another religion or of a particular ethnic group.

I am yet to be convinced we are a better and happier society without Christianity.  We seem to have more problems than a one armed fan dancer.  Australia now is divided sometimes aggressively and it seems permanently on race, religion, culture, gender and sexuality.  We are beset with numerous and it seems unsolvable social problems.  All this has developed and co-incided with the demise of the Church’s influnence.

Categories In the news

American Independence Day - Tasmania Australia

23/8//2018

July 4th is American Independence Day or as it is termed over there, The fourth of July.  It is the day in 1776 when the thirteen America colonies declared their independence from the mother country, Great Britain.

Over the time, the connection between America and Australia/Tasmania has been strong, often friendly and certainly those who settled here from the USA have been fascinating and purposeful. Yet initially it was not so.  Indeed the Americans had plans to invade the British colony of Sydney.

The idea was formulated in 1801 with the help of the French, the arch enemy of Great Britain.  Sydney, settled in 1788 was an easy target for invasion from anyone.  At that time, it was a struggling, small colony.  Hints of invading Sydney was formulated after the exhibition to the colony by Frenchman Nicolas Baudin.

It was to take several years before anything substantial occurred.  In 1812, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, an able and humane man, was Governor of NSW and also of Van Diemen’s Land. We were then administered directly from Sydney with local Commanders in charge while a new Lieutenant Governor arrived which was to be Colonel Thomas Davey.

The planned invasion of Sydney was discovered by adventurer, Jorgen Jorgenson who learnt it from a French prisoner held in Tothill Fields Prison in England.  Jorgenson informed the British authorities, who thought it was rather “amusing” and did not take it seriously, judging it to be wild and unlikely.

However, the French with their American allies were quite serious and indeed two French warships were to be sent to the new nation of America to tee up with two American vessels to invade Sydney.  The French part of the invading plan was not successful.  Their two ships were wrecked off the coast of Spain near Cadiz as the result of a violent storm.

The Americans continued their plan to invade, sailing for Sydney.  While doing so they attacked British non-naval vessels, primarily whaling ships and by all accounts destroyed a considerable number of them.

Even so, without the French warships not accompany them, the desire of the two American ships started to wane especially when a British man-of-war was seen by them. The experience sent them scampering thus ending the planned invasion of Australia by America.

Jorgenson eventually came to Van Diemen’s Land as an explorer, editor, navigator and colonial constable.

Fortunately since the debacle of the invasion most visitations were generally peaceful and helpful, although it does depend which side you were on.  Colonial Americans were one of the main agitators during the Eureka Stockade incident and in 1840 a number of Americans were sent to our island as political convicts after the disastrous Canadian revolt in which many south of the border participated.

Whilst here their treatment was brutal, but fortunately for them they received a pardon by Queen Victoria and left our shores for good, happy to go.

A few years later there were further political prisoners, this time Irish. One, Thomas Francis Meagher, fought in the American Civil War with the Unionists as Brigadier-General, after escaping from Tasmania.  His colleague, John Mitchel also was involved in the war, by supporting the Southern States, becoming the editor of the Richmond newspaper in Virginia,

Mitchel like Meagher spent some time in Tasmania with Mitchel enjoying the company of his family.  A son of his with whom he lived in Bothwell, followed his father to America after he had escaped from his prisoner home.  Interestingly enough this young man, John Jnr, who once lived amongst us was the person to fire the first shot heralding the start of the American Civil War.  He was a Commander of a regiment who fired a canon volley on Fort Sumpter thereby opening the war.

In reference to the American Civil War, three American war veterans are buried here, they being Francis Waters (Cornelian Bay), Henry Wells (Somerset) and Charles Baker (Beaconsfield).

As a matter of interest actor Edwin Booth, brother of John Booth who assassinated President Abe Lincoln, played at one time at the Theatre Royal in Hobart while Hobart also enjoyed a visit from author Mark Twain who spent a very brief spell of only several weeks with the Confederate Army, arriving in Tasmania 2nd November 1895.  Twain described Hobart as “one of the tidiest cities in the world”.

Another connection is with John P. Mikesell who superintended the construction of Tasmania’s original telegraph line in the 1870s.  Mikesell was born in Virginia in the 1830s and participated in the Californian gold rush in the late 1840s and 50s.  He enlisted in the Union Army in November 1861 and resigned as Captain in 1863.  When gold was found in Australia shortly afterwards, he sailed for our shores.  After completing his services as a superintendent to our telegraph construction, he left Australia and returned permanently to America.

The connection between our country, state and America goes back many years and is quite substantial.

Categories In the news

Name Change for Hobart

20/6//2018

The proposed aboriginal name for Hobart which, as testified by the Hobart Lord Mayor Ron Christie, will replace the existing name may not be a simplistic as envisaged.  There are not only historic matters to consider, but legal and public acceptance. Consultation must be taken with all Tasmanians, not just those within the Hobart City Council’s jurisdiction.  After all, Hobart being the capital of our State belongs to everyone, whether they reside in Glenorchy, Ringarooma, Launceston, Queenstown, where-ever.

The city of Hobart was named after Lord Hobart, the Secretary of War and Colonies, yet the first Hobart was at Risdon Cove (1803) and letters between Lt John Bowen and Governor Philip Gidley King in Sydney shows this. When David Collins arrived in February 1804 and moved the settlement to Sullivan’s Cove, which was first termed “the camp” Collins continued with the name Hobart in his honour.

The present Lord Hobart, Earl of Buckingham is patron of the Hobart Town (1804) First Settlers Association.

Clearly neither Hobart nor any city of any kind existed before 1804.  To say that conditions of the early settlement were difficult would be an understatement.  I have written about the struggles of this period previously, but it is suffice to say that from those foundations arose the modern, high standard of living city of Hobart.  The current city just did not happen, it was built on the backs of those who came before us.  Intentionally or not their sacrifice and endurance, their fortitude and courage is the reason why we have our city.  If these pioneers had not arrived, Hobart as we know and love, would not exist….I would not be here, the Hobart City Council would not be here, the Tasmania Government would not be here and so on.  I believe I have made my point.

We should, therefore, be eternally grateful for those who came before us. To change the name of their city shows a huge sense of ingratitude and like the closure of the many churches which is currently a topic, I wonder what the founders would think of we modern folk undoing their efforts.

The problem with the proposed name is there is no agreement on its historical roots or accuracy.  By consulting my aboriginal friend, whose group is not connected to the TAC whatsoever, I understand that the Tasmanian aboriginals did not name specific places as European do, such as after indivuduals like Lord Hobart.  Rather it was a reference to a place or locality where good shell fish were found, or a good area for wallabies.  Aboriginal reference to where Hobart now stands could not possibly embrace the concept of a city let alone the modern capital of Tasmania.

Any name change, however, would entail great financial costs and I would suggest great confusion, known now for 214 years as Hobart world-wide with all its traditions and history and suddenly there is to be a new name?  New names for cities usually come with a substantial change of government such as the fall of Communism in Russia or the new South African Republic, although the latter has retained such names as Dundee, Johannesburg, Cape Town, etc.  It seems to me the proposed name change is simply a whim of politicians and lobby groups, without any consultation with the people of Tasmania.

One thing which irks people, the masses of which I am one, is the belief that governments and many politicians do not truly represent the electorate – after all they are called our “representatives” and we employ them.  Too often they represent themselves, their Party, lobby groups and even foreign bodies, seemingly the electorate last.  Like the scriptures state, the Sabbath was created for man and not man for the Sabbath, so the government was created for the people, not the people for the government.

Too many individual politicians in a position of influence believe they have a mandate to push their personal political or social point of view upon the rest of us. Often this is without the consent of the people or to our benefit.  In essence they have a pet project and without following proper procedure go ahead and implement their desire on us all.

With the proposed name change by our Lord Mayor I understand the proper procedure has not been followed.  He has taken upon himself to promote the concept without any reference to the Hobart City Aldermen and one wonders why he has done this.  However, the name change of our capital cannot be the responsibility alone of the HCC.  As our capital it has to be the responsibilty of Parliament and the State Government or more pointedly, the people.  This can be determined through a State-wide referendum.  The latter will be a true public representation rather than a hand full of self-interested people deciding for us. In reality even a referendum is not warranted here. I have no doubt that in honour of the heritage of this fine city, the majority of Tasmania do not agree with the Lord Mayor and if this being the case, then why is it even being seriously considered?

Hobart is a fine, beautiful medium sized city, which we love.  It is a progressive city, an innovative one, but one which prides and appreciates our founding pioneers and history, which includes Hobart as its name.  Leave it alone. If this did go head what is next? The name Tasmania?

Already there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of towns, districts and streets that have Tasmanian aboriginal names, so the original inhabitants have not been forgotten in this regard. It is true that the origin Tasmanians were the first, but we should embrace the wonderful contribution of the British so both can be justifiably recognised. We are all ‘natives’ of Tasmania.

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Church closures - what does it mean

Part 2 | 26/5//2018
My first book published in 1975 was entitled, “Churches of Van Diemen’s Land” – (a history).  In the book I dealt with the history of forty two historic churches, beside the oldest continuous synagogue in Australia situated in Hobart.

The book contained churches from the main denominations such as Anglican, Catholic, Congregational, Presbyterian and Methodist, the latter three amalgamating in to the Uniting Church some years ago.

1975 was a long time ago now and since then, many of those churches contained in the book have been closed with more to come. Those already closed included the Anglican and Congregational Churches in Broadmarsh, the most historic Back River Chapel, the Hestercombe Chapel at Granton and to be closed the most beautiful and quaint, St Mary’s Church, Gretna.

Church closers, particularly of the Anglican and Uniting denominations are not a new phenomenon.  It’s been going on for years with a number of these churches being closed much to the chagrin of their parishioners.  I have been involved in a number of churches in an effort to preserve them, such as St Maraget’s Church, Risdon, The old Congregational Church, Old Beach, churches in Launceston and Trinity Church North Hobart, which fortunately is now being used as Greek Orthodox. I say “fortunately” because it is still being used as a place or worship.  I have recently been contacted regarding the future closure of St Matthias, Windermere East Tamar built in 1843 and is unique- as many are – in its architecture.  A number of churches were designed by convict architect, James Blackburn.

The recent publication in The Mercury shocked me with the number of churches to be closed, such as the magnificent St Michael All Angels Church, Bothwell and St Andrews Church, Evandale (both of which are covered in my book), and St Stephens Church Sandy Bay, beside so many others.  It is all so sad. Many of these historic and beautiful churches contain cemeteries in which numerous pioneers are buried.

I am aware church attendances are down and that many of these churches and halls, built by our settlers were in rural areas when transportation and communication was primitive.  Modern transport allows parishioners to attend churches in other communities without a great deal of inconvenience. It has been reported that the selling by the Anglicans of many, of their churches and properties is to pay compensation to those ‘abused’ by members of the church.  However, I also understand that amounts to 25 per cent of the revenue raised, so where does the rest go?

What does all this actually mean?  It means a huge loss of heritage and the passing of an era.  When our pioneers settled in an area, they did two things.  They erected (not in order) the church for worship and the hotel….one, as I often have said, to sin in and the other to repent in.  Joking aside, it does state quite dramatically the intention and desires of our early society.  There was obviously a conflict in values, but both equally and important as each other. There were thousands of taverns and hotels in olden days, many more than now as there were churches.  Many of the former still survive, seemingly in a much healthier way than our churches. This does reflect upon modern values and wants in comparison to previous generations.

Many of the churches now are homes, craft shops, retail outlets and cafes/restaurants and some are simply derelict.  A number have been allowed to crumble beyond repair, such as St Mary’s Bridgewater.  When I did my book that particular church was full of wood carvings, performed by artist Ernest Osborne whom I interviewed.  What has happened to these pieces of work?  What happens to the pews, plaques, wall tablets, fonts, war memorials, etc, etc. of these churches when they close and are purchased?  This is a major concern.

I often wonder what those pioneers would think of what is happening today.  Would they approve or understand or would they shake their heads in bewilderment?  I believe the latter.

I am not a church goer, but I have a respect for religion, particularly the Christian religion which has given so much to us. As I was growing up we were not a church family, but the church was always there, particularly for christenings, confirmations and weddings.  It shaped our consciousness and sense of what was right and wrong.  Since the demise of that influence, society in my opinion has lost its way.

I cannot help to be critical of those who make the decisions to sell and close down such edifices.  I am aware of the effect it has on existing congregations and very aware of even the anger it produces.  Such as was the case with the selling of Trinity which went against the wishes of the parishioners as is the current case with St Mathias.

Christianity came to Tasmania with Lt John Bowen who settled at Risdon Cove in 1803.  The first Christmas service was held there in December, by the order of Governor Philip Gidley King of Sydney. The first church was erected in Hobart with David Collins.  This shows the importance on the inherited religion placed by our early settlers. Yet today even by our church leaders, it appears such emphasises are missing.

When my book was published way back then, Tasmanian historian and author, G. Hawley Stancombe wrote the foreword.  He finished off by writing, “This book will hope to remind us of this (why our ancestors built and believed as they did) and perhaps point a way to the future”.

Hopefully it will remind us of what was, but unfortunately it has not pointed a way to the future.

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Has Australia become politically Intolerant

26/5//2018

The subject of freedom of expression has has come to the fore of late.  There are calls to, if not abolish 18c of the Federal Racial Discrimination Act, then at least  amend it. On a State level there has been moves by Legislative Councillor Tania Rattray to remove the terms, “offence” and “insult” from the Anti-Discrimination Act Section 17.

In defending to retain the legislation as it stands, proponents state any such change will harm many and that the laws are really there to prevent ‘hate’ being espoused.

Yet, are these laws actually doing what they claim to prevent?  Are they actually being used to intimidate and threaten individuals and groups?  Are those who advocate, “inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity” consistent when they also advocate with those with whom they have a differing opinion should be not only persecuted but also prosecuted?  This is the dilemma;  in endeavouring to protect sections of the community , it can be used to victimise others.

What is freedom of speech and expression?  It is to be able to express one’s social, political and/or religious views without hindrance, especially if put in a civilised manner.  Obviously if violent, then the current laws will deal with that.  If libellous or defamatory, existing laws will handle that.  An opinion given in a debate and stated in a peaceful manner which has been sincerely uttered must be tolerated.  The supporters of Section 17 and 18C state the legislation is there to prevent “hate” speech.  Yet, the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart’s pamphlet on traditional marriage was in no way a hateful document.  It was interpreted as such by a political candidate.  Although the charge was dropped, the Archbishop was subject to not only persecution, but possible prosecution.  For simply voicing his Church’s policy on marriage? This had nothing to do with ‘hate’ but somebody taking an issue with his opinion.  Well how many times in life are we offended?  Personally I am offended many times a day.  Being offended, however, can be a lesson in life;  how to deal with it, how to meet its challenge and how to counter it with adult argument.  Free speech can only exist if one has the right to offend.

On the Federal level with 18c we have seen unfair prosecutions regarding the late cartoonist, Bill Leak. Then there was journalist Andrew Bolt and the three young university students from Queensland. The latter had written inoffensive and true statements on their Facebook page, when they were subject to reverse discrimination (which is simply discrimination) because they were not aborigine. There would many more cases not making the news, because the person or person involved, just comply, not wanting to handle the stress and strain of the whole affair.

We have become despite the claims, an intolerant society.  Even though we can watch the most offensive material when it comes to the entertainment industry, including filthy language (and that is what it is) on a political level, we are greatly censored. We have moved from being a debatable society to a society which promptly bans an opposing point of view.

Examples of this is the attacks on Coopers Brewery for organising a civilised debate on same sex marriage (Coopers collapsed like a pack of cards over the matter) to a Christian Lobby group on the mainland who had to cancel their conference on traditional marriage because of threats.  Now we have seen the film “The Red Pill” about a Men’s Right Movement banned in Melbourne and Sydney because again, of threats.  The young American female producer of the film stated on Sky News recently that Australia has far more political censorship than the USA.  Organiser for the screening of the film (again a young lady) has been told by the Student Union from Sydney University they will not tolerate the showing of the film.

Then we have the young Somalian woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who now lives in the USA  cannot come into Australia for lecturing as her security cannot be guaranteed.  Her subject, of which she has had first hand experience, is female religious genital mutilation. Incidentally (19th April 2017) a doctor who undertook such a procedure in America has just been arrested.The first case ever in that country.

Overseas, the film “Vaxxed” produced by Robert de Niro was removed from the Cannes Film Festival because of outside pressure from big corporations. The public must not make up its own mind on a particular subject.

Senator Cory Barnardi’s office was recently trashed by a militant left wing group who did not agree with his views and saw it was their right to threaten his staff and destroy his place of work.

Just being offended because of the subject matter does not give anyone the right to prevent the opposing view being aired or the right to use legislation to ban it.  This word “offended” can be used to stifle debate and freedom of expression.

The problem is that there is a complete lack of leadership on this issue from the Prime Minister downwards.  Our governments and Parliamentarians (excluding the few) shy away from the subject.  Our universities which should be in the forefront of defending differing points of view do nothing to counter this intolerance. Incidentally English comedian, John Cleese said recently he will no longer perform at universities because of their sensitivity and political correctness.

Is ANZAC Day on the attack list?  I wonder what our diggers would think of the current repressive situation?  To give their life so one cannot espouse an opinion because someone may be “offended”?

As one who has been involved with the media now for 49 years and has made much of my living from my interaction with it, I have seen the gradual erosion of freedom with speech and freedom of movement in Australia.  This is a very dangerous trend.

The twentieth century saw freedom of speech advance in various Western democracies.  Are we now in retreat?  What makes a country a free country as opposed to an oppressive dictatorship is a free media and the guarantee of individual freedom together with the ability to be able to tolerate another’s point of view.

What has happened to Voltaire’s “I disagree with every word you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”  On his death a banner proclaimed, “He gave wings to the human mind.  He prepared us to be free.”

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