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Chapter 14

I walk with an Irish ghost on Tasmania's first road; inspect Australia's oldest inn, explain Hamilton, visit some historic estates and finish up at Bothwell.

During the twenty one mile journey to New Norfolk, I had the company of a ghost - one Denis McCarty. To you who follow me along this road, the first made in Tasmania, I present this Irish ghost-exconvict, constable, farmer and grazier, roadmaker, Deputy Provost Marshal and much more. Four miles beyond Granton stood a derelict grey stone house, known to all and sundry as "The Haunted House". No one. can tell why it received its name, though it is popularly (and wrongly) supposed to have been the country seat of early governors. The haunted house was originally the Golden Fleece Inn, licensed on 22 October 1824 to one Henry Fitzgerald. It did not long cater for travellers and in 1837 it was on the market. As no theory regarding the haunting has been put forward I am not likely to be contradicted when I say that I am convinced that Irish Denis who built this road and eventually met his death in a mysterious manner, afterwards made it his ghostly headquarters. My assertion is that Denis, after all his troubles in constructing the road, drinking his share of the 500 gallons of rum that were to be part payment, and then dying whilst his claims for final settlement were being considered by Sorell and Macquarie, perambulates this unpaid for road, and, when he finds it necessary to take shelter, rests in the old Golden Fleece, or Addington Lodge Villa as it was also at one time called,
Tasmania's very first road, and the first to have a coach on it! Not so old in centuries as the Roman roads of Britain, but in details of construction perhaps quite as interesting. If you dive into the history of this road, as I have done, you will learn a number of things, relevant and irrelevant. You will find, for instance, that Mrs McCarty had eight or more chemises, seven petticoats and eleven pairs of stockings (the latter worth 1 per leg), that sugar was 1/3 a pound; tobacco 10/- and muslin handkerchiefs 6/1 apiece; that in 1807 Denis owned 2 acres of garden, 23 sheep and 7 female goats; that he received a free pardon on 16 June 1810, went to gaol again On 23 July 1814, and returned from Sydney in his own vessel in March 1815, with part of his sentence remitted. You will see him writing a threatening letter to Governor Davey for seizing his spirits and wrongfully sentencing him, and then dining at Government House with the same Governor Davey. You will stand at his deathbed, seeing it only "as through a glass darkly", and wonder what Jemott and Broadribb had to do with it-if anything. Contemporary records refer mysteriously to these persons as knowing more than they should of McCarty's end. You will gather that this McCarty was, in spite of his knowledge of the interior of gaols, a man of some character and standing, for his name is written at the head of a long list of signatories to a letter of praise for R.W.Loane.
The road transaction, like the deathbed, can only he seen through a fog. The contract-one of the quaintest ever entered into-was given him, he says, as some compensation for losing goods valued at 546 7s. 6d. by a raid of bushrangers on his house at New Norfolk. The offer he made was to construct a road from Hobart to New Norfolk, 16 feet wide, complete with bridges, on condition of receiving:-2,000 acres of land; 15 men on the Store for 12 months at a ration and a half for each man; 8 bullocks and a cart; 500 gallons of rum duty free; a tent for the men; tools fit for the purpose.
McCarty was afterwards told to do some extra mileage and to make the road 24 feet wide as far as Roseneath Ferry, leaving the extra remuneration to the pleasure of the Governor-in-Chief. On 26 June 1819, there is a letter from Denis to Governor Sorell inviting him to travel over the new road and to advise the date so that the settlers and inhabitants may receive the first Governor to come to Elizabeth Town". Sorell replied that he would make the journey when the weather was "dryer" and appointed a committee of inspection of three to report on it, which declared that all the bridges (except New Town and O'Brien's) must be pulled down and rebuilt, as not even a horse could go over them, let alone a cart, and that the road was faulty in very many places. Whether Sorell ever made the journey and was received by the settlers, and if so whether any of the 500 gallons of rum was used to assist the celebrations, is not disclosed. McCarty duly received 500 acres at New Norfolk and 1,500 acres at Dromedary, but it was left to his executors to lodge their presumably ineffective application for a final settlement. The first coach ran on this road in 1831.
Although at the end of 1806 eight families had arrived from the abandoned Norfolk Island, the first real ship-load reached the Derwent on 28 November 1807, and the bulk of these and subsequent arrivals settled at New Norfolk, the name being given in memory of their old home. The area was visited by Governor Macquarie on 28 November 1811. He chose a site for a town and called it in honour of his wife Elizabeth Town. Previously residents had named the spot "The Hills" The name Elizabeth Town was still used in 1827, but eventually the district name of New Norfolk was given to the town itself. Amongst the early establishments a school and a brewery ran almost a dead-heat, and the records can be believed when they state that there was a great demand" for Mr Cawthorn's table beer malted from wheat, for those were thirsty days. In 1820 John Barns was ferryman, Daniel Murphy school-master and Thomas Shone government butcher. Ferrying must have been easier work than teaching for poor Barns had only one ration, whilst the schoolmaster (with nine scholars) had a ration arid a half. In a return of schools and scholars furnished by the Rev. R. Knopwood in 1819-20, Hobart is shown as having two teachers (Thomas and Henry Fitzgerald) and 59 scholars, whereas New Norfolk outstrips it with 3 teachers and 64 scholars. The village evidently made a good race of it at the start, but was unable to stay the distance. Instruction was carried on in a private house, and the first brick school got its roof in 1824, about which time the folk thought of asking for a Chaplain. When the first church was built I do not know, but it was there in 1827, being beaten, as usual, by the first inn, which was commenced in 1814 and licensed on 19 September 1815, to Mrs Ann Bridger. This is the famous Bush Inn, the oldest of Australia's original inns carrying on business in the first building.
I sat on the balcony of the Bush and wrote my notes, but it needed considerable strength of mind to lower my eyes from the view and concentrate on any subject except that of the beauty of one of earth's most favoured spots. This stretch of country might have been a part of Old England itself, for it is typical of England's best. There are the hawthorn hedges, the spreading oaks and elms, and in autumn rows of poplars stand like gay-coated grenadiers, acres of apples stretch forth bright scarlet
arums, and hop plantations exhibit their massed greenery.
The garden of the hostelry slopes gently to the river, and behind are the gum-clothed hills flat give the needed contrast. Admittedly they are nor so colourful as the oaks and poplars, but when the English trees are stripped of their foliage the aboriginals of the soil have their day.
If you walk down the garden path (resisting the temptation to linger at the mulberry tree) a gate opens on to the broad esplanade where picnickers are seeking shady spots. The river is alive with boats-launches, racing skiffs propelled by aspirants for Regatta honours, and little row-boats whose occupants sing as they paddle. There is a tall oak rubbing shoulders in brotherly fashion with a eucalyptus, wattles and willows, pines and poplars, blackwoods, chestnuts, elms, hawthorns in picturesque contusion. It was this scene that gave to the world one of its most beautiful lyrics, for it is popularly believed that on this same balcony many years ago sat Wallace, composer of the opera Maritana, to write "Scenes that are brightest". The early settlers were so enamoured of their surroundings that they would not even die. It was over twelve years before a burial ground was selected there, and in the period when burials had to take place at Hobart there were but two.
I have only one quarrel with the flush. why did some owner of later years discard the old-fashioned "Inn" in favour of the stiff word "Hotel"? I can take mine ease at an inn, but not at an hotel. Some dark night I shall take a pot of black paint and try my skill at signwriting on the white walls of the Bush. I shall paint out the offending word and then go inside and invite the proprietor to join me in drinking to Australia's oldest hostelry, the Bush Inn. There is no reason why it should not see another century out: it is substantial enough.
A hill rises steeply from the end of one of New Norfolk's streets, in which a gash has been cut by the quarryman. The view from the top is worth more than the expenditure of breath that is necessary to get there. I sat on the summit and tried to imagine the evaporating works, the hop kilns and the peg factory joined by the preserving works, abattoirs, timber yards, breweries, auctioneers premises and the other business places that go to make up any ordinary city. I picked out spots for Government House, Parliament, Customs, G.P.O., sports grounds and high schools, and thought how tired the streets would get in climbing those eternal hills. For New Norfolk was within an ace of becoming Tasmania's capital city.
An Executive Council Minute of 30 December 1825 definitely recommended the removal of the capital from Hobart to New Norfolk, and Governor Arthur backed the proposal strenuously. The chief advantage of New Norfolk appeared to be its excellent water supply, and the river Thames (now the Lachlan) was pronounced much superior to the Hobart rivulet. The Derwent above the falls was to work the much needed breweries and distilleries. But the factors that maintained Hobart as capital were the money sunk by merchants in buildings and the expense of the move when the infant colony's resources were needed for roads and bridges. Hobart has withstood challenges from Brighton, New Norfolk and Launceston, and presumably will now rest secure till the crack of doom. I indeed felt sorry for the motorists who overtook me between New Norfolk and Gretna. They whisked through the poplar avenues and the lanes red with hawthorn berries, missed the ripples of the river as it gurgled over its rocky bed and the joy of rambling through the acres of blazing beauty that is Yates' Seed Farm in autumn.
At a hilltop is a wayside inn bearing the sign "Rosegarland". How could any lover of the poetry of words not to say a lover of beer on a hot day-pass an inn of that name? Were I the proprietor I would plant a garden round it that would fit the name, arid, when other trade was slack, sell rose-garlands to my customers.
What remains of the Woolpack Inn is on the right-hand side of the road a little further on. You can no longer buy beer at the Woolpack, but had your visit been in 1838 you might perhaps have had a pot at the expense of Sir John Franklin, for in that year he attended a dinner at the Woolpack as the guest of the Southern Agricultural Society who were wont to foregather there. Martin Cash and his mates Jones and Kavanagh chose this secluded inn for the testing of their arms, and in a deliberately planned affray with the Police the bushrangers came off best, departing with their tails up-and a keg of brandy to keep them up. They were arrogant rascals, always playing to the gallery. It was in the vicinity of the Derwent Valley that they wrote a bombastic note to the Governor:

Martin Cash & Co beg to notify His Excellency Sir John Franklin and his satellites that a very respectable person named Mrs Cash is now falsely imprisoned at Hobart Town, and if the said Mrs Cash is not released forthwith and properly remunerated, we will, in the first instance, visit Government House, and beginning with Sir John administer a wholesome lesson in the shape of a sound flogging; after which we will pay the same currency to his followers.

Given under our bands this day at the residence of Mr Charles Kerr at Dunrobin.


If the guide-book writer recommended his public to break the journey at Hamilton he would lose his job. Ten minutes' inspection of the hamlet constrained me to murmur "Change and decay in all around I see", for I saw more abandoned buildings there than anywhere-Zeehan and mining towns of course excepted. But, having said these uncomplimentary things, I am going to record truthfully that I enjoyed immensely this interlude in my journey in the Derwent area. To the traveller unacquainted with Tasmanian history the crumbling stone buildings of Hamilton would constitute a puzzle; and so would the wide grassy streets that climb the hills to afford the population access to houses that were never, and never will be, built. Where are the folk who should be strolling in that fine crescent before the church that is big enough for a dozen Hamiltons? I came to the unshakable conclusion that the most hesitant thing in the universe is a road. I followed the original route of entry, came on the ford that preceded the first bridge, and noticed the fickle brown ribbon leave the opposite bank and fade away into the green fields. In a street leading to the ford is a row of the absurdly substantial buildings that our forefathers designed, exhibiting the facts that the best stone in the world, and the worst cement, were used. Directly the roof falls the rains disperse the cement and down tumble the walls. I saw the seven inns of the heyday of the settlement, several granaries, bark mills, breweries with their great vats, and tile walls of the inevitable gaol. One brewery turned to tobacco curing, but I doubt if ever the fields that once waved with wheat and barley and employed hundreds of harvesters will sustain again a population of workers.
Hamilton was to have been a granary, a military station, and a centre for the district. Now there is one solitary policeman who combines half a hundred small jobs. The day I arrived he was occupying himself halting motor cars and examining licences, numbers, brakes, lights, or the absence of them. Tomorrow he would be collecting debts, or registering dogs.
After a browse around the buildings that were intended to stand for ever and had failed to do so, I walked through the churchyard and read dares a century old, smiled at the quaint verses affected by our ancestors, and inspected the church that was to celebrate its centenary the next year. It had but one door, which told me that today a church-warden has supplanted the warder who once stood with loaded gun ready for any striped-jacket "worshipper" who might hurry too much in his exit. Then I climbed the hills on the southern side, and, looking at the mountains with their rolling mists, agreed with the terse description in the ancient geography book I had picked up that "Tasmania is the most mountainous island in the world". It is; and if the stones of some at least of the graves of the explorers had been lettered with more truth and less poetry they would have recorded plain heartbreak as the cause of death. Tasmania's pioneers were heroes of the first magnitude.
On the day that I walked the seven switchback miles from Hamilton to Ouse I stopped to lean over the roadside fence near Lawrenny estate. Fat sheep and cattle and a horse or two returned my stare a yard or so off, knee deep in feed, though the hillsides opposite were brown and dry. A network of irrigation channels shone in the sun; fields with animals in them stretched for miles; a broad, pine-fringed avenue led to a stately mansion and its surrounding satellites of barn and stable and cottage; beyond the mansion the willow-fringed Derwent wound its sinuous course through the hills, and finally as a background ruse the bold outline of the Mount Field Range, sprinkled with the snow that was the first herald of the approaching winter.
I crossed the Derwent at old Dunrobin bridge and walked in sight of the stream to historic Dunrobin. It looked its century, its walls cracking and its chimneys (one with a
window in it above the roof) threatening to tumble down. The history of Dunrobin would fill a book. I talked with an old lady who was there when Martin Cash and his brace of villains raided it in the time of Kerr. If there be a lovelier view than that from the grounds of Dunrobin where the Derwent sweeps round, I would like to be told of it.

Cawood, associated with the well known family Nicholas; from its well preserved appearance bids fair to see out the second century it has begun to chase. It is now occupied by the manager of the estate, who allowed me to look around, and pointed out amongst other things the flagged courtyard where the prisoners were tried by the magistrate. The home paddock was starred with mushrooms, and I filled my arms with them, to earn, doubtless, unheard objections from the hotel cook - but she earned my congratulations for her skill in serving them for tea.

To save going back to Hamilton I struck across the hills from Ouse and hit the road near Hollow Tree, fording the Clyde about up to my knees, Hollow Tree was a frequent place name in the old days, and it stuck to another spot near Richmond for quite a long time, You have a considerable hunt through indexes in tracing the history of the towns and villages and districts, for they have, some of them, changed their names three or four times. Bothwell, for which I was heading, had two previous names. First it was the Fat Doe River, then the Clyde and finally Bothwell. Governor Arthur remarked that the Clyde in 1824 was becoming a populous place. The first settler, according to his own account, was Charles Rowcroft who had left "the Camp" (Hobart) in February 1817, with his chattels and family in two bullock wagons, "full of spirit'; and hope". This was literally correct, and from his five gallon cask of rum success was drunk on arrival to "the first farm on the Fat Doe River". Charles Rowcroft's tale is the tale of many a pioneer-hard work, dangers and a successful ending. When his home had been built four years Mr Rowcroft sallied forth to the succour of a neighbouring family who had suffered at the hands of a gang of bushrangers and whilst he was absent a second gang raided his own house, where only the women had remained, and burned it to the ground. The memoirs tell of
affrays with the natives; the capture of bushranging gangs, and daily doings in the peaceful interludes. Early settlers in the land of the Red Indians had no monopoly of adventure, and a Fenimore Cooper could have written many a volume upon the picturesque days of the first half century of this island of the Southern seas.
Amongst the dozens of estates round Bothwell is Nant. It was in Nant Cottage that the Irish political exiles Mitchel and Martin lived in the fifties of last century. when Mitchel saw a chance of escape-through the help of Mr P.J. Smyth, who had arrived in the colony especially to endeavour to aid the prisoners to get away - he withdrew his parole in writing and delivered the letter in person to the magistrate at Bothwell, stating that he was waiting to be arrested. The magistrate seemed to be dazed for a few moments, but on Mitchel repeating his challenge the magistrate woke up to the situation and called to a constable to arrest the prisoner. It was too late. Mitchel made off, mounted a horse that was in readiness, and galloped away, accompanied by Smyth, to further adventures, which, after several hairbreadth escapes, finally resulted in freedom.

Chapter Fifteen




Tasmania by Road and Track - by E T Emmett was originally published by Melbourne University Press.
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