Monday, June 6, 2016

The Story of John Best - Part 7



During the 1820s, the Best family lived an antipodean version of their Irish agricultural life. Agricultural activities dominated their lives. By 1823, their livelihood revolved around sheep flocks and the sale of Thomas Wells’ meat and grain that they and others had produced for him. Sales occurred mainly at the Hobart Town Market. Under the ‘thirds’ rule, John had been able to develop his own flock of sheep. He may have found the time to grow his own wheat and barley at Hollow Tree and he had a garden of vegetables and fruit trees for family consumption. But to survive, John would almost certainly have had to obtain a lot of occasional work. 

The Hollow Tree district was gradually growing, as new settlers received land grants and brought with them their families and received assigned convicts as domestic servants or labourers. The resident Irish ticket of leave convicts maintained a social and commercial network, many developing bonds that remained strong well after their conditional pardons were issued. That network did not exclude English convicts. In fact, it seemed to be a network that evolved along certain commonalities such as a convict past, perhaps a shared transport ship but especially the poverty that afflicted those in and coming out of the convict system. That poverty provide the driver for mutual support. Irish, English, Welsh and Scottish convicts socialised freely, bartered goods and services, loaned goods on trust and so developed common bonds that were perhaps less likely in their homelands.

Sheep stealing was rampant in Van Diemen’s Land during the 1820s. Thomas Wells had his share of troubles in the early part of the decade. In February 1822, Robert Oldham stole 150 of Well’s sheep. Shepherds John Bell (
Minerva) and Bryan Carroll (Admiral Cockburn) came under scrutiny. It seems Bell was never under any suspicion. Carroll, on the other hand, was found guilty of gross neglect of duty by absconding, which created the opportunity for Oldham to steal the sheep. Carroll later received 50 lashes. Oldham was caught, tried, sentenced to death and subsequently hanged on the 14th of April 1823. Then on the night of 22 April 1823, Mr Wells had 200 sheep stolen (largely breeding ewes and 9 merinos specially imported). Thomas Keane and Thomas Butler were later charged and tried in July 1824. Keane was found guilty and a gang of sheep stealers exposed as a result of the investigations. Wells recovered some of his sheep but incurred search costs of about 500 pounds. Keane appears to have been hanged, the usual fate of sheep stealers at that time. As a shepherd, John Best had to be alert to ensure sheep under his oversight were at all times accounted for. 

But all through the 1820s, the Best family would have lived with the fear of attack by natives. The newspapers of the time reported incidents, clashes, attacks, many fatal, on the slowly increasing numbers of British people settling the New Country. The newspapers also reveal why the attacks by the natives became more frequent and violent. It became increasingly common during the 1820s for groups of natives to steal food and other provisions from the huts of settlers. These incidents were sometimes defused by diplomacy, but as the decade wore on, the Field Police and/or the Military Police would pursue the natives to drive them away from the locality. The natives, on being pushed into another district, found themselves again in need of food. Few of their traditional grounds remained available to freely find natural food sources. So they raided the settler’s huts, often stealing food, sometimes burning the huts. Settlers were sometimes killed. The Police would chase after them and kill any they could, but definitely drive them off. The survivors would start the same process again – need food – find settler’s huts – take food – kill settler if settler stands in the way – run from pursuers – start process over again in another valley. Displacement from their land and denial of access to traditional hunting and foraging grounds understandably fomented a deep hatred of the white people among the natives. And so the Black War played out. It was in this environment that the Best children grew up. 

As was common, the children became workers at an early age; the boys probably helped their father with agricultural pursuits and Ellen probably helped her mother with domestic and community activities.


In September 1827, Patrick Montgomery (Minerva) died at age 52, only five years after his wife (Ann) and his children had arrived from Ireland as part of the group that included Mary Best, Bridget White, Mary Bennett and their respective children.

During the late 1820s, Ellen Best met John Doran, 5 years her senior and also of Irish descent. Doran had a property he called ‘Sweetwater’, 5 miles on the Hobart side of New Norfolk. Towards the end of the 1820’s they probably became betrothed. Also, Michael,  John and Mary’s eldest son, became betrothed to one of Bryan and Mary Bennett's daughters, although it's unclear which daughter.  Possibly Bridget, as she was the eldest and only four years younger than Michael, but it could also have been Ann (six years younger than Michael).

During the 1820s, the Best’s received new neighbours. Firstly, Joseph Bradbury, his mother Sarah and his sister, also Sarah, separately acquired several blocks bordering John’s 55 acres. The Bradbury family had arrived in Hobart on 8 November 1822 per brig Minerva. It’s unclear when they settled at Hollow Tree, although an 1824 map engraving by Charles Thomson, based on a survey by Thomas Scott, Assistant Surveyor General, showed the name Bradbury at the location of Joseph’s 2,000 acre block at Hollow Tree. The Byrne family were also living adjacent to the Best property on a 60 acre block originally granted to James Holland. It’s unclear when the Byrne’s took up residence. James Byrne appears to have received his 60 acres as a grant (originally James Holland’s grant) and he purchased an additional 50 acres to enlarge his holding following a Crown Land sale held in July 1828. In 1829, Henry Boden Torlesse acquired a large block (2,560 acres) between the Best’s block and the McCarthy’s block, calling his land 'Rathmore', however he and his wife lived at nearby 'Montacute', managing that property for William Langdon until his arrival from England (in 1834). Torlesse probably placed an overseer to manage his stock on Rathmore property and only a stock keeper’s hut would have been built on it until Torlesse and family took up residence several years later.

By 1827, Michael Best, aged about 20 – had his own block of land, although he continued to live with his family at Hollow Tree. He must have had enough sheep by 1827 to buy the 100 acre block in Cockatoo Valley. The land, however, was incredibly stony with a skeletal soil not suitable to much more than light grazing by sheep. Michael built a hut at Cockatoo Valley Creek.



Wednesday, August 12, 2015

98 Years Later

In October 1917, my grandfather - Bert Rowland - was mustard gassed at Ypres in Belgium.  He was evacuated to England where he recuperated at the County Middlesex War Hospital at Napsbury (in St Albans, Hertfordshire) and subsequently at the 3rd Auxilliary War Hospital at Dartford, in Middlesex. By December 1917, he had sufficiently recovered to be discharged and was afforded some furlough before a return to the Western Front.

While on furlough, Bert travelled to Dalton-in-Furness, in Westmorland (now Cumbria), England, the birthplace of his girlfriend Meg (later to become his wife).  Meg had left Dalton-in-Furness at age 3, when her family migrated to Tasmania.

In Dalton, Bert stayed with Meg's aunt (Hannah Crellin nee Hornby) and uncle, Thomas Henry Crellin. Bert enjoyed his stay in Dalton enormously, being well looked after by Meg's aunt, uncle and nephews. He wrote to Meg how he had one of the best times he had ever had. He wrote this on the back of a postcard dated 30 December 1917.  On the front of the post card was a photo of Tudor Square in the heart of Dalton-in-Furness.

In May 2015, I managed to visit Dalton-in-Furness for the first time.  My visit was 99 years, more or less, after my grandfather made his one and only visit.

Below is the front photo of my grandfather's postcard.  And below that is my photo of the same spot 99 years later.

Tudor Square, Dalton-in-Furness - 1917
 
Tudor Square, Dalton-in-Furness - 17 May 2015
 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Song of the Day

Time for a musical interlude.  Do you remember this one?


Classic Paul Kelly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Story of John Best – Part 6

[updated 2 June 2016]

28th of March 1822 – families were reunited on the Hobart shore!

The Best, White, Bennett and Montgomery families. 22 individuals in all. Children of Ireland. Van Diemonians now. George White was recovered but carrying scars on his back, remnants of 50 lashes meted out for stealing 2 sheep 7 months earlier. But they would have been a happy band as they exchanged farewells with the Montgomery family. Patrick Montgomery had been assigned to Mr Peters on his arrival in 1818, Peters lived close to Hobart and so Patrick's family stayed in the town. But for the others came the loading of the new arrivals’ small belongings onto the bullock-drawn carts. And then the long haul out of town by the dirt track. Much news would have been exchanged on the long, slow journey to Mr Wells’ farm at Newtown. Perhaps a first night stopover there. Then on to New Norfolk, where the Bennett family moved off towards Brighton. The White and Best families kept travelling further west, to the vicinity of Allenvale, where the White family bade farewell. And then north-west to Hollow Tree for the Best family.

At Hollow Tree, a family may have awaited the Bests arrival: Patrick and Mary McCarthy and their children John (age 4), James (age 3) and Mary (age 1). With the arrival of John’s family, Hollow Tree could boast at least two families of Irish origin. The McCarthy’s had settled near Hollow Tree some time shortly before John had arrived as Mr Wells’ shepherd. Patrick had received a 50 acre grant of land near Hollow Tree.  The McCarthy's had spent a number of years at New Norfolk after Patrick received his conditional pardon, but apparently relocated to Hollow Tree around 1820.

John Best would probably have welcomed his family into a bush style hut common at the time. Perhaps built with help from Patrick McCarthy, it would have been constructed of logs and perhaps roofed with turf. Perhaps surrounded by a fire wood pile, a fenced vegetable garden and the signs of a shepherd’s work, such as old wool shearings and a dog or two. What did the family make of this, I wonder? And the sheer distance from other settlements? I suspect Mary Best was more than a little anxious about their future in such a remote spot.

The natives had not caused any trouble to the few settlers of the district and there was an abundance of high-protein food. By 1820, mutton had become the dominant meat for British people in VDL, by virtue of its abundance. As James Boyce explains in Van Diemen’s Land ‘Virtually unlimited mutton became a right of workers, convict and free, in the grassy woodlands until well into the 1830s.’ In 1822, there was generally little fencing of grazing lands except for stock holding yards, so the land was available for herding as well as game hunting. So activities in 1822 at Hollow Tree for the Best family would have concentrated around establishing the basis for their subsistence. 

Over the next year, a ‘mini-rush’ of new arrivals occurred. On the 6th of August 1822, James Byrne (an Irish convict who had escaped from Port Jackson, only to be discovered and detained in Hobart) and Eleanor Simpkin (an English convict) were married at St David's Church, Hobart, by the Rev R. Knopwood. Mr and Mrs Byrne and their four-year old illegitimate son (James) settled at Hollow Tree next door to the Best family.  I don’t exactly know when that occurred, but they were there during the 1820s. They are even shown on an early land map as living on land at Hollow Tree without authority(as ‘Burn’ not ‘Byrne’)! I suspect the Byrnes had been given poor land survey information and settled slightly away from the block they were entitled to occupy.



Andrew Downie (a free settler from Scotland) arrived in Hobart per the Skelton. He immediately took up the job of Head Shepherd for Thomas Wells at Allenvale and presumably became John Best’s boss! John Bell apparently also remained as a head shepherd, as Bell himself later wrote that he was head shepherd from 1819 to 1824.  And in January 1823, John Sherwin and his family (English free settlers) arrived in Hobart and took up a grant of land on the River Clyde (Sherwood) near present day Bothwell. Nearby, John Riseley and his wife (English settlers) had settled on land just westward of present-day Hamilton (Kimbolton Park) during 1821.

On the 27th of January 1823, John Best purchased, from Thomas Wells, the 55 acre block at Hollow Tree on which he and his family had been living. This is quite remarkable, as convicts were supposedly not able to purchase land in their own right until they had received their conditional pardon. John had not received his pardon, yet he was able to pay 40 wether lambs to Mr Wells to buy the 55 acres (approximately). To me, this shows the intent by Wells (probably influenced by similar approach of Lt Governor Sorrell) to rehabilitate worthy convicts. I also think that John Best had rapidly become simply a working man rather than a convict in the eyes of his new community. In any event, on 27 January 1823, Andrew Downie, on behalf of Thomas Wells, issued John a receipt documenting the exchange of the land at Hollow Tree for 40 lambs.

The 1823 muster shows that Thomas Wells now had 28 assigned men in his service, including Best, White and now also Bryan Bennett. By June 1823, Mary Best and the children had been in Van Diemen’s Land for a year. When not working as a shepherd, John busied himself with improving his 55 acre block. He added brush fencing around one paddock, put in a ditch to improve drainage toward the Dew Rivulet and he built a stone house. We know this because John Sherwin later (1842) mentioned this when providing John with a written deposition necessary when John had to renew his land claim. Interestingly, there are no signs of buildings on the block of land today except for a pile of stones that may be the remains of the Best home. And this pile of stones lies exactly where the early maps suggest the home may have stood.




John Best's block (still reflecting John Barnes' name, even though Barnes sold it to Wells shortly after receiving it as a grant). James Holland's block is the one James and Ellen Byrne acquired during the 1820s. 


























By December 1823, Thomas Wells was in deep financial trouble. Creditors appointed trustees to receive claims against his' estate and Thomas Wells was placed into debtors’ gaol (i.e. he was put in Hobart Gaol for going bankrupt). Despite this, Best, Bennett, White and the other assigned men continued their work under the general guidance of Andrew Downie, Thomas Wells (from his prison cell) and perhaps Mrs Wells. Joint efforts began to help Wells trade his way back to freedom.  However, the men and their families were probably forced to become more self-reliant. John Best had his ticket of leave, so he was probably viewed more like a freelance worker than a convict. John was able to take on work from others, subject to Mr Wells’ permission – I suspect a ‘global approval’ from Mr Wells to take on additional work may have informally applied for some time already.

In late 1823 or early 1824, John’s neighbours – Patrick and Mary McCarthy – had a child; a girl they called Eleanor (or mostly just Ellen). They travelled to the Roman Catholic Church in Hobart town for a baptism ceremony on 23 March 1824, where John Best is recorded as being Ellen’s ‘sponsoribus’ (godparent). Tragically, later in 1824, Patrick McCarthy was speared by a native when he, Mary and their infant child were returning home through the bush near Hollow Tree. Mary escaped with baby Ellen in her arms. And so began the troubled times now referred to as the Black War.

Go forward to read The Story of John Best - Part 7

Go back to read The Story of John Best - Part 5.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Elwood High School - Looking Back

Hi all


Irene Jablonka has a web site dedicated to capturing/recording stories of ex-students from their days at Melbourne's Elwood High School.

It's a great idea ... if you attended EHS, you can contribute your recollections, large or small.  It could gradually become a library of memories for other ex-students .. and ex-teachers ... !

But it needs contributions. Here is the hyperlink:
http://elwoodhighschool.yolasite.com/

You can search for the site by keywords Looking Back at Elwood High School Days on Google.
You may also be interested in Looking Back at Elwood Central Days (again, search in Google to navigate to this web page).

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Story of John Best - Part 5


John Best’s first 18 months in Van Diemen’s Land must have been a huge change from his life in Ireland. He was serving a sentence for a crime, but not in a jail as he’d experienced in Trim or Dublin. Here, his jail was this new land, this island, with few British souls and natives that knew how to disappear, almost melt, into the bush. John had work. Lots of it. He had a master, or employer, in Mr Thomas Wells, who was obligated to provide basics for his assigned convicts. John had a reliable supply of food from Mr Wells - tea and sugar in abundance - and meat was available in the way of wild game - kangaroo, wallaby, ducks. And John was entitled to ownership of a third of the natural increase in Mr Wells' flock size under ‘the thirds’ rule. Only recently a desperately poor peasant stockman in County Westmeath, he was now earning a living, with the bonus of accumulating stock  to create his own herd. The historian, James Boyce, gives us an idea of how John and fellow convict stockkeepers must have lived during these times:
 
“The custodian (convict stockkeeper) took the animals to the leased or granted land or, more commonly, to unallocated grasslands, where he watched over the animals, doing the necessary deals to minimise losses from bushrangers and Aborigines while making extra money for flour, tea, sugar, tobacco and rum by selling kangaroo skins.” 
 
But they must have also been crushingly lonely times for John Best, tending and continually counting Mr Wells’ flock of sheep in the grasslands around the Little Dew Rivulet and the Upper Derwent River. John would have known it was possible to apply for his wife and family to immigrate to Van Diemen’s Land. Convicts, who had been in the colony for a period and who did not commit further offences were eligible to apply to have their families brought out at the expense of the Crown. Applications had to show that convicts would be able to support their families upon their arrival and not incur any further expense to the Government. In general, families were not permitted to reunite in Australia unless the convict applying had a Ticket of Leave which allowed convicts to work for themselves, to provide a means of supporting their families.
 
In Ireland, Mary Best would have been eking out a very tough existence. Wives in her circumstances were often supported to some extent by their church parish. It’s unclear whether John submitted an application for his family to join him or whether Mary applied to the authorities for her and the four children to join John. Either way, the application must have been submitted sometime around mid to late-1820, based on the travel times for mail to and from Hobart (about 6 months one-way). The application was successful. The White family (George White), the Bennett family (Brian Bennett) and the Montgomery family (Patrick Montgomery) were also successful with applications to reunite in Van Diemen’s Land. The husbands were all Minerva men. There must – surely – have been exchanges of correspondence between the men in VDL and their wives in Ireland. The convicts must have been able to assure their wives (the parishes and the authorities as well) they had sufficient means to support them. The applications appear to have been submitted jointly, suggesting either a connection at the parish level in Ireland or a networking among the Minerva convicts in VDL.
 
On about the 10th of July 1821, Mary Best and Bridget White, with their children, departed Kinnegad for Dublin. They may have met with Mary Bennett and Ann Montgomery and their respective children in Dublin. The women and children boarded the Brig Park in Dublin, a brig that carried 80 convict women and some children. The Brig Park arrived at Cork on 13 July 1821, where the convict transport John Bull was waiting at the docks. None of the convict women or children were permitted to transfer from the Brig Park to the John Bull until all their clothes were washed. Then berths were allocated to the convict women following a recommendation to good behaviour. Transfer of the convict women to the John Bull occurred on 14 July 1821. Blankets and pillows were distributed before the convict women were locked up for the night. Transfer of the 22 free women and children to the John Bull took place on 16 July 1821. This included our group of 18 free immigrants:
  • Mary Best and her children: Michael, Eleanor, Thomas and Joseph;
  • Bridget White and her children: Catherine, Dennis and Eleanor;
  • Mary Bennett and her children: Bridget, Ann, Rose and Bartholomew; and
  • Ann Montgomery and her children: William, Patrick and Archibald.
The John Bull sailed out of Cork on 25 July 1821, stopping briefly at St Iago (Cape Verde Islands off west Africa) before eventually arriving at Port Jackson on 18 December 1821. During the voyage, Joseph Best had spent several weeks in ship’s hospital suffering an unknown ailment. He recovered. Patrick Montgomery had fallen overboard in rough weather off the NSW south coast. He was safely recovered! After the John Bull had moored at Sydney Cove, our group of immigrants was transferred by boat to Parramatta, “... a water passage of about 20 miles ...” where they were accommodated at the 'public expense', probably at the newly completed Parramatta Female Factory.
 
Parramatta Female Factory, circa 1826
They spent summer and early autumn of 1822 in Parramatta. What a complete change that environment would have been for them! Hot! They were forced to wait in Parramatta until a ship could take them to Hobart. Finally, they were given passage to Hobart aboard the Royal George, which was authorized to be rationed appropriately to cater for the needs of the 18 immigrants.
 
 
 The Royal George left Sydney 19 March 1822 and arrived in Hobart Town on 28 March 1822. Here, at last, John and his family were reunited.
 
 
 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Story of John Best - Part 4

John Best’s first night on land for half a year must have been a bit strange for him. If you’ve ever spent weeks aboard a ship on the open ocean, you’ll know that your first night’s sleep on land is odd, because you compensate for wave motion even though there is no motion. You know why there's no wave motion, but your senses just expect there to be - it seems weird!

When dawn broke on that cold June morning in 1818, John and his fellow convicts would have been introduced to the farm workings immediately. They would have been told that every Sunday was muster, a day they had to clean up for – if they were not presentable, severe punishment could be meted out by the authorities. Muster often coincided with attending church. John and his fellow convicts were all Catholics and the only Catholic church at that time was in Hobart town. Initially, muster was likely to have been in the tiny village of Newtown. On occasions, the convicts may have been allowed to attend their church in Hobart.

On the 4th of August 1818, Lesley Ferguson was absent from muster. For this misdemeanour, he was given one week on the government gang. In essence, he was sentenced to a week of physical labour in the government’s service. Perhaps constructing a road, or clearing rubbish in Hobart Town. Ferguson apparently got his back up at being treated in such manner. A short while after his release from the government gang, he was caught entering into the parlour of a Captain Barclay with felonious intent (i.e. break and enter). He was sentenced to receive 50 lashes and labour in irons for 1 month. Thomas Wells must surely have returned Ferguson to the government, wishing nothing further to do with him. Ferguson’s convict record shows that he continued a life of misbehaviour and crime until his record stops at 1829. He was still a young man, so perhaps he died.

For the rest of 1818, John Best and his fellow convicts (John Bell and George White) helped operate the Newtown farm for Messrs Wells and Brodribb. The farm grew grain and carried dairy cattle. Perhaps John was involved in sowing wheat on the farm.

In October 1818, the local newspaper reported “On Friendly Farms in this neighbourhood, ninety springs or stalks were counted and ascertained to proceed from one grain of wheat; and will doubtless produce ninety full ears. The ground in question was sown with five pecks of seed to the acre, and has a most abundant promise.” The same month, Wells and Brodribb took out a public notice in the paper warning people to cease moving stock through, or allowing their stock to stray on, Friendly Farms land. The notice advised that the new main road recently constructed (largely by convicts off the Lady Castlereagh and the Minerva) was to be used. The several older tracks on Friendly Farms would be obstructed by felling timber over them. No doubt John and company were put to work on this task!

On the 7th of January 1819, all male convicts in the Hobart area were issued with new clothing (slops), consisting of ... “One Duck or Linen Frock, One Linen Shirt, One Pair of Duck Trowsers, and One Pair of Shoes.” Six months between changes of clothes was pretty good at that time for Van Diemen’s Land – many of the earlier convicts, settlers and even military men had resorted to making their own garments from kangaroo furs!

Also, in 1819, Thomas Wells acquired more land. He was granted a large estate upstream from New Norfolk, about 3.5 km north of present day Gretna. Wells called this property ‘Allenvale’.  I suspect Wells then despatched John Best, John Bell and George White at different times, or in pairs, to move his growing flock of sheep from Friendly Farms to Allenvale and surrounds. This would have been scary work for the shepherds, as the country at the back of New Norfolk had been the hiding place of various convicts turned rogue, known then as ‘banditti’. Wells would have provided the men with a gun and instructions to build themselves a hut, or huts, so they could stay on the Allenvale land and oversee the flock. 

I believe that a hut was built at Hollow Tree, about 12 km north of Allenvale, in which John Best was based. I believe this because, later, Thomas Wells purchased a 55 acre block of land from a Mr John Barnes at Hollow Tree - title to that block later passed from Wells to .... John Best (see below).

A notice in the press published many years later (1841) shows that John Best acquired a block of land from his 'master' Thomas Wells.
 
Another hut may have built west of, but closer to, Allen Vale, in which George White was based. And perhaps John Bell was based in another hut – possibly north-east of Allen Vale. The men used these huts as a base/shelter while overseeing the flocks. This was only a temporary arrangement – at first.
In mid-September 1819, Thomas Wells sought another convict to help work his farms.  He was allocated Bryant (or Brian) Carroll, who had arrived in Hobart on the Admiral Cockburn on 16 September 1819. This would certainly have allowed Wells to send shepherds to the Allenvale district in pairs.

The 1819 annual muster recorded that John Best had ‘no offences’ during 1818 or 1819. John was a convict who kept out of trouble.

Flocks of sheep had arrived to graze on the grassed valleys of Allenvale and environs. The indigenous people were faced with a new competitor using their resources. For generations, the Big River (Lairmairrener) people had periodically burnt the valleys to promote grass growth and eliminate trees. As a result, the valley grasslands would feed greater numbers of kangaroos, wallabies and bird life. The valleys were literally larders! Another way of looking at is - the valleys were indigenous farms, it’s just that they didn’t look, nor work, like a British farm. The first white men to arrive in the area had been the transient banditti. With them came a reign of terror and abuse.  But some British residents of the grassy woodlands, like Edward White who lived near the Great Western Tiers for three years, were not armed. Settlers taking up land grants after 1818 also recorded peaceful exchanges in their journals and letters. James Boyce describes this period immediately before 1820 as a time when, despite sporadic violence, "... access to Aboriginal hunting grounds had been achieved without outright conquest.  This was a period of uneasy co-existence ...".

But it was inevitable that the Big River people would come into conflict with the shepherds, stock men and landowners. In December of 1819, James Triffitt (senior) lost 300 of his flock of 1,000 sheep; the 300 had been beaten to death at the hands of the Big River people on west bank of Clyde River (Mr Triffitt was residing in New Norfolk at the time and the sheep were possibly left untended by their shepherds).

Go forward to read The Story of John Best - Part 5

Go back to read The Story of John Best - Part 3

Monday, April 15, 2013

St Kilda Comes to Canberra

13 April 2013 saw St Kilda Football Club play a game in Canberra for premiership points.  They played against the Greater Western Sydney Giants at Manuka (recently re-named Star Track Oval for sponsorship purposes).

The game was a day-night match - played under lights. A beautiful autumn evening, with no breeze and a temperature of around 24 degrees C.

The game began with the daylight fading and the lights already on.

Ball up to start proceedings
Clint Jones and Toby Greene stare each down at the start of the game.
St Kilda kicked an early goal through Stevie Milne to set a trend for the rest of the game. It was quickly followed by another goal to Nick Riewoldt. The Saints had 5 goals 4 behinds on the scoreboard at quarter time - the Giants did not score at all.

The Giants collected their first goal early in the second quarter, then another.  I thought then that we were going to have a game on our hands.  But the Saints were dominant.  They beat their opponents to the ball and moved it around the ground more thoughtfully.  By half-time, the scoreline was Saints 10.8 to the Giants 5.1.

Half-time scores
The crowd mood was somewhat quiet - seems more were Giants supporters than St Kilda fans. But there were many St Kilda fans.

The scene at half-time.
St Kilda went on to kick 5 more goals in the third quarter and a further six goals in the final quarter.

The final scores.
Some of the Saints players who kicked goals were:

David Armitage - 4 goals (man of the match award)


Stephen Milne - 3 goals

Ahmed Saad - 3 goals
Nick Riewoldt - 3 goals
Beau Maister - 2 goals

Sam Gilbert - 1 goal
After the siren:
Handshakes all round.  Good to see the sportsmanship.

Nathan Wright sees the impact of the Giant's big loss on Toby Greene's face.

 
As the players left the field to recover, the crowd emptied out of Star Track Stadium.  Many headed to Manuka for a meal or a drink. The evening remained balmy.  A good night for all (except the Giants and their fans, but hey, tough luck guys!).  The Saints finally started their winning form.







Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Last Day of Summer

While watching a US television soap/drama (Revenge) the other night, I heard a character say something like "... you'll be gone by the end of summer".

The setting for the show is, I think, the Hamptons, or somewhere on the US north-east coast where the uber-wealthy people spend their holiday time.

I was left wondering - what did the character mean by "the end of summer"?  Summer in the US officially ends on 31 August.  But I was left with the impression that the character was referring to perhaps the end of the holiday season.  I was a touch confused.  I put it down to the (small) cultural divide between Americans and Australians.

But here in Canberra, there is absolutely no doubt about when the end of summer is.  We almost celebrate it with dancing in the cul-de-sacs.  Almost. It's today - the last day of February.  From now on, the sting of the searing sun will steadily weaken.  The stinking hot days and sleep depriving hot nights are all but over.  Of course, Mother Nature may yet taunt us with one or two more 30C degree plus days.  I remember a March day in the mid-eighties where it reached 38C.  But Canberrans rejoice on this day, because tomorrow the best season of the year begins - autumn. 

Today is also a day of note, because it's my youngest son's birthday.  Happy birthday Adam!



A summer sight that we hopefully won't see for a long time to come.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Statues - London and Canberra

While on a visit to Floriade last spring, I snapped this statue.

 

This is the first public statue in Canberra that I can think of (other than a war memorial type statue) that’s appealing for its realism. I really like this statue. But a question kept cropping up in my mind ... ‘who is it meant to be?’ Now, I’m NOT that ignorant that I didn't immediately recognise old Ming, but if you were an international visitor to Canberra, would you know who it was?

This is how London displays their statues (see below). They use pedestals to tell you who the statue represents, and sometimes even a bit about them.  The ACT Government could learn a thing or two from London.




Don't get me wrong - I really like the Ming statue and hope one day that Tuggeranong will be adorned with something of similar style and quality - perhaps a statue of the ACT's own Chris Peters (complete with marble pedestal)?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Story of John Best - Part 3

[I've taken some small liberties in compiling this reconstruction of events. I felt it was necessary in order to paint a clear word picture of what might have occurred - but it's all based closely on fact. I'll progressivley update John's story if I become aware of more detail. Submit a comment if you want to ask me about any particular matter - fact or fiction. Regards, J1A]

Sunday, 7 June 1818.
Although Minerva had reached Hobart, the convicts were kept on board for almost a week. Two convicts had departed Ireland under execution warrants - George Grey (murder) and William Trimm (sheep stealing). A sombre mood among the convicts must have deepened as guards arrived to escort Grey and Trimm from their Minerva holding cell and out onto the long boat lying alongside.



Once ashore, they were marched a short distance to the Hobart Town Prisoner’s Barracks (which evolved into Hobart Gaol two or three years later). For these two convicts, the “attention and offices” of the Reverend Robert (Bobbie) Knopwood were “constant”. Knopwood’s efforts were later recognised by the press as helping to ease the state of mind of each man “... which enabled them to meet their fate with decency and resignation.”
 
Thursday 11 June 1818
At 11.00am, Grey and Trimm were hanged on the gallows in the grounds of the Barracks. The quick execution sent a loud message to the rest of the Minerva convicts – welcome to Van Diemen’s Land, you are here to serve out your sentence ... better behave chaps or this could be your fate.

Also on the 11th of June 1818, the convict ship Lady Castlereagh arrived in Hobart from Port Jackson. Then there were two ships full of convict labour in a small town in urgent need of all forms of skilled and unskilled labour. Hobart was a town growing quickly and settlers were taking up land beyond the township.  Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, Col. William Sorell, recognised that manual labour was an urgent requirement for the settlers if the tiny population was to survive and prosper.

Friday 12 June 1818
On this day, the commander of the 48th Regiment, Major William Nairn, brought several guards and officials aboard the Minerva. The officials were probably:
  • Lieutenant-Governor Sorell’s secretary - Samuel Hood,
  • Chief of Police - Adolarius William Henry Humphrey,
  • Thomas Edward Wells - Sorell’s Chief Clerk; and
  • William Adams Brodribb - also a member of Sorell's Secretarial suite.
(Both Wells and Brodribb were convicts from England who had arrived about 2 years earlier at Port Jackson. By virtue of their administrative skills (clerk and lawyer, respectively) they found favour with the powers that be and became part of Col. Sorell’s team when he travelled to Van Diemen’s Land in 1817 to take up his post as Lieutenant Governor).
 
The guards brought with them an issue of new clothes and the convicts were instructed to change into them (having been washed in the ship's bath in the preceding days). It was mid-winter, so the new clothing was well received. They were issued:
  • 1 cloth jacket,
  • 1 cap,
  • 1 pair of cloth trousers, 
  • 1 pair of shoes; and
  • 1 cotton shirt.
 
Major Nairn had a muster of the convicts.  The group - Nairn, Hood, Humphrey, Wells and Brodbribb - walked through the decks of the Minerva.  As they went, Hood interviewed each convict and recorded their trade or calling and marked those that he ‘considered fit for government employ’. He might have asked “What was your occupation before you were convicted? What skills do you have, fellow?”  Mr Humphrey recorded all the details on the muster. A guard directed each convict to strip to the waist. The physical description of each man and any identifying marks were recorded. This would help the authorities and the free population to identify any convict should he abscond. They recorded the description of each convict on the muster as they made their way through the ship. Thomas Wells assigned to settlers any convicts who had not been earmarked for government employ.  On the muster, Brodribb pencilled in the settler's name against each convict. Despite his arrival as a convict in Sydney only two years earlier, Wells enjoyed such confidence as to have custody of the convict indents and to make out occupation licences.
 
As an example of how things went, some of the determinations went as follows:
 
John Traynor:  after stating he was a labourer, Wells checked his behaviour record. Well behaved. At 22 years of age, Wells decided he would most useful as an assigned convict and allocated him to a settler by the name of William Raynor.

Patrick McGarrell:  a 27 year old cooper by trade, McGarrell had been allocated to a work gang.

John Bell: a 35 year old labourer from County Antrim. According to the record, Wells allocated him to “W & B”. This was an abbreviation for Wells and Brodribb. Wells had begun the process of selecting workers for the farms that he owned and jointly operated with William Brodribb.

Leslie Ferguson: a 17 year old who had been a servant back in Ireland. Ferguson’s record showed ‘Very well behaved”. Wells allocated Ferguson to “W & B”. He probably thought he was getting a great long term worker in Ferguson, but little did he know that this young man would be trouble!

And so the process went.

When they arrived at John Best, his physical features were recorded thus:
  • Age: 35
  • Height: 5' 4½"
  • Colour of eyes: hazel
  • Colour of hair: black
  • Complexion: sallow
  • General remarks: well behaved
John explained to the officials that he had been a labourer and a herdsman. This appealed to Wells. He harboured plans to make his personal fortune by growing fine quality wool and exporting it back to England, probably inspired by the success of John MacArthur in NSW. John Best’s experience with herding animals was ideal. Wells might have said: “Best, my name is Thomas Wells and next to me is Mr Brodribb with whom I jointly operate a farm. You’ll be working for me. A Mr John Johnston will be your overseer, under my direction. Mr Johnston will remove you to Friendly Farms within a day or so; he is busy readying accommodation for my new servants right now. Do exactly as Mr Johnston tells you at all times and you’ll be alright”.

"W & B" notation against John Best's name on the indent list.

Wells assigned Brian Bennett to Mr Richard Barker, a free settler resident in Hobart but with land at Macquarie Plains, in the middle reaches of the Derwent River valley, upstream from New Norfolk.
At the end of the process, Wells had assigned the following men to work for himself and Brodribb:
  • John Bell (to Wells),
  • Leslie Ferguson (to Wells),
  • John Best (to Wells),
  • George White (to Wells); and
  • James Forsyth (to Brodribb).
 
Saturday 13 June 1818
The relief column of 48th Regiment soldiers that had arrived on Minerva and Lady Castlereagh and the Minerva convicts disembarked and went ashore, the convicts under the watchful eyes of the soldiers. They came ashore on Hunter Island (present day Hunter Street wharf) near the Government Stores building.
 
The soldiers then marched the Minerva convicts up Campbell Street to the Prisoner’s Barracks (between present day Melville and Brisbane Streets). Although not a long walk, the convicts were shackled in leg irons. With little fitness remaining after 6 months aboard a ship, this exertion must have tested them, especially the older men.

John Best must have wondered what was about to happen to him. How was his life of hell in Van Diemen’s Land going to pan out?

Once inside the walls of the Barracks, the gates were locked.  The Minerva men were taken to the courtyard.  There was a gathering awaiting their arrival. Those present included:
  • Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land - Col. William Sorell (the head honcho in V.D.L.),
  • the Chief of Police - Adolarius Humphrey; and
  • Col. Sorell’s secretarial suite (or administrative officers), comprising Sorell’s secretary, Samuel Hood, Thomas Wells and William Adams Brodribb.
With the convicts assembled, Lt. Governor Sorell inspected the convicts and then delivered a brief address. Sorell commenced with his approval of their clean appearance and their correct conduct whilst on board. They were told that good behaviour would be to their advantage, and they would be treated kindly. Sorell warned those who had been reported as disorderly by the Surgeon-Superintendent, that they should be more circumspect and they would be watched by the police.

Convicts intended for public works were then inspected by Sorell for his approval for such public employment and then put to labour in the public works. Convicts that had been assigned to settlers were then collected by their respective new 'masters'. John Johnston had arrived at the Barracks with a bullock and cart (in 1818, there were very few horses in Van Diemen's Land).  Those convicts assigned to Wells and Brodribb, to their surprise and great relief, had their shackles removed. Johnston advised them there was no escaping Van Diemen’s Land; quite simply there was nowhere to go, no way to leave the island. Restraints were thus unnecessary. But he also left them in no doubt they remained prisoners and subject to further punishment for any misdemeanour.

Johnston led the five W & B men out of the Barracks to his bullock-drawn cart waiting nearby. Johnstone climbed into the driver’s seat.  One convict climbed up and sat beside him while the others, perhaps, sat on a hay bale in the tray.  They left the Barracks and made their way slowly northward up Campbell Street.  They headed out past the town boundary and then along a rough but well used track towards Wells and Brodribbs' Friendly Farms, where the Hobart suburb of Newtown sits today, a trek of about 10 kilometres.
 
John Best and his fellow convicts George White, Leslie Ferguson and John Bell are driven to Friendly Farms at Newtown. June 1818





The forced removal of John Best from his Irish homeland by the British government was now complete.

Go forward to read The Story of John Best - Part 4

Go back to read The Story of John Best - Part 2.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Boris Johnson's Ice Age

The Canberra Times printed an article yesterday written by Boris Johnson (he being the mayor of London).  Johnson wrote how he had stared through his window at a flowerpot and his bashed up barbeque and noticed that the layer of snow he could see outside his London home was getting thicker. He wrote "This is now the fifth year in a row that we have had an unusual amount of snow; I mean snow of a kind that I don't remember from childhood: snow that comes one day, sticks around for a couple of days, followed by more."

He concludes "But I observe something appears to be up with our winter weather, and to call it "warming" is to strain the language".  So Boris consulted learned astrophysicist Piers Corbyn, "...who has very good record of forecasting the weather". Corbyn reckons global temperature depends not on concentrations of CO2 but on the mood of our celestial orb (the sun). And that 'mood' is one of declining solar sunspot activity known to have coincided once in the past with a severe cold spell on Earth (the Maunder Minimum).

Johnson writes "I am not saying for a second that I am convinced Corbyn is right ... I am only speaking as a layman who observes there is plenty of snow in our winters these days, and who wonders whether it might be time for government to start taking seriously the possibility - however remote - that Corbyn is right". He concludes by writing "I look at the snowy waste outside, and I have an open mind".

Well Boris.  I live in Canberra, the capital of Australia.  Here, The Canberra Times (same day) also reports "Canberra heading for January heat record as storms spark fire fears".  The article tells us "Canberra is sweltering through what could be its hottest January on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology".  The average daily maximum temperature in January for Canberra is 27C.  This January so far, our average daily maximum temperature is sitting at 33C, a massive 5 degrees C above average!  Now it's only 24 January today, so we may be lucky to be blessed with some days where the maximum fails to exceed 30C (here's hoping) and lower the average daily maximum somewhat.

Boris - you look out your window and wonder if sunspot activity is leading the world to another Ice Age.  I look out my window and wonder when Canberra's summer will start cooling down to the long term average!

Perhaps an article written with a bit of fun in mind, but it might be sensible, Boris, that you look further than your own backyard to see if your conditions are reflected elsewhere.  And perhaps consult more than one expert (and perhaps not just an astrophysicist). From what I can tell, places like Washington and New York (regular deep freezes most winters) seem to have seen nary a snowflake at all this year.  Perhaps all their snow has gone to London!

So, I wish I was in London right now, enjoying the sight of snow falling rather than than my garden trees scorching under a relentless sun (see my poor Gingko below).

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