Bob and Prue Wakelin visited West Hobart from New Zealand and really enjoyed exploring while they were here. Here are their impressions.
I think I have sorted Knocklofty. I’m sure I have sorted Knocklofty.
Our dear friend Sheelagh Wegman who is right up there in Hobart history and in literary arts thought to check her “Scottish Gaelic Dictionary”. She already knew that there is no “k” in the Gaelic alphabet. Look what she discovered – “cnoc = knoll or hillock”. So there we have it. Knock is Hill and Knocklofty is lofty hill. But it was settler Gordon from Scotland who named it, probably after the place named Knocklofty near Tipperary, Ireland, and this tickled the fancy of Bob from One Tree Hill in Auckland NZ.
In Rangiwahia, NZ, we have our own personal and special hill rising up about 300 metres north of our house. I think we will call it Knocklofty! So there you are. Thank you Sheelagh.
Kees and Sheelagh Wegman and their daughter Imogen live in South Hobart, on the side of a hill (of course) across the valley from Knocklofty. There it is, bush covered and beckoning and standing in front of big brother Mt Wellington. In the valley is the historic Female Factory, the workhouse where women convicts served their sentences. Kees is an architect in private practice and we enjoy the environment he has created in their home built for a cosy appreciation of the view, and the sun, and for nice fellowship around their table. They were the first of the parishioners of St Johns Anglican church to meet us after our first service in Hobart in 1994 and invite us home for a meal. Since then, Sheelagh has been a constant encouragement to me in her role as a professional editor and if I do write a book some day, will surely be my editor.
Named after its Spanish namesake where Wellington defeated Mannont in 1812. In those days, such battles were recent events and the Duke was obviously the empire hero and top of the list for naming rights. When my hero William landed in 1820, Salamanca Place was a beachfront with a sandstone cliff outcrop. It was a nice place to live and Rev Knopwood lived there on 35 acres given him by Gov Collins. It was the obvious place for a wharf in this new town which, with whale oil pouring in, would need many wharfs. The Crown took back their gift to the Rev and built New Wharf against a bit of reclaimed land in front of the cliff. In the 1830’s entrepreneurs built warehouses on either side of the cliff using the dolerite from the cliff. They could have become Troglodytes. The cliffs morphed fmally into the row of seven 3 and 4 storey warehouses that are there today and the land has been further reclaimed leaving the old New Wharf as Salamanca Place. The warehouses are professional offices and galleries and pubs and restaurants and have become the meeting place of artists and tourists. Every Saturday, Salamanca Place is the hub of country commerce where Huon dwellers do international trade. Even during the week Salamanca is a tourist mecca, and on Saturday the Salamanca Market is a very colourful world famous destination.
Right there on Salamanca Place in one of the Warehouses is our favourite fruit and vege shop. The specials we found there on our first Friday were amazing. Butternuts for $1.25 and soya and linseed bread for $3. Potatoes and sweet potatoes were $2 per kg. We set off for home loaded
That was where Prue discovered the Metro. Metro do buses and do them very well. They have kneeling buses and bendy buses and buses which take passengers in wheelchairs. Hills are everywhere and especially between our flat and down town. It would take Prue more than half an hour to grind back up to the top of Patrick St and so she researched the Metro Tasmania on this our first city outing. We oldies are able to buy a $1.80 ticket which will allow us to travel anywhere on Metro for 90mins. This is the ticket Prue uses to climb the hill home. But wait. There’s more! Oldies like us pay only $2.80 and we can stay on a Metro bus, if we want, from dawn until midnight, but on the stroke of twelve our coach becomes a pumpkin.
We bought an all day ticket last Thursday to go to Howrah over the bridge to visit a friend. The driver was anxious to set us down at the best stop for us and part way along the ride he asked me what street we wanted. Then he radioed his office and asked them where our insignificant little street was. We heard both sides of the conversation. It was so good! The Metro service is a complete package.
The Library and Archives
By now in our third week here, my borrowed bike knows the way by itself. R down Patrick. R down Barrack (where some felons burnt a stolen car last week and we heard them but didn’t know what was happening). L down Bathurst. Traffic lights and two stop signs sometimes interrupt the wheeee of the continuous downhill iceless Bob-sleigh ride. These are at Harrington and Murray. And the library is on the kitty-corner of Murray at Bathurst. On a good day when lights are green and there is no traffic coming at the Barrack stop signs my bike delivers me fresh and breezy to the library bike stand in about 3 minutes. But coming home the bike is like any other beast of burden and needs a lot of encouragement. I find that in the low gear of my old 10 speed ladies bike on the Patrick St hill, my front wheel lifts off the road if I am seated. I have never done an official “wheelie” but this incline would be a good place to start if I had the inclination (isn’t English strange!) Anyway, I digress. At the library, there are several computers available for free email use for up to 30 minutes daily. Good service! One secures a computer with a booking at the office on the ground floor. Each computer has Microsoft Office on board and a printer on the desk and they have broadband access and so are very fast, and have lovely 17” flat screens. There are several other computers for internet research only, scattered through the library. And of course there are the dedicated library catalog computers which print you a copy of your search at the push of a button.
The books on the shelves at Hobart seem to be fewish, but on enquiry at the desk, one finds that elsewhere in the building is a “stack” warehouse where books are stored and retrieved at almost a moment’s notice. The Hobart library is effectively one room in the statewide system of many libraries and books flow freely (without fee) between “rooms” and stay where they are requested until ordered from another “room.” Great system, but not what I’m used to.
Down a passage off to the side of the reference department is my favourite space. Tasmaniana. Here history in books is stored and wonderful research space with tables and chairs and pencils and very helpful staff. For instance, yesterday I wanted to know more about the 1000 acres up river, which could have been mine, which William Roadknight was granted in 1820. The friendly lady found a book for me which for every early settler, indexed the area of land granted, along with the district location and reference numbers to enable me to discover particular details about the particular bit of land. All within 3 minutes! 0, in this Hobart where history is almost everything, Tasmaniana is enough to bless an historian for almost a lifetime. “There are more things Horatio than are dreamt of . . .”
Just about 60 metres down Murray St is the Archives Office for Tasmania. Marvellous place. On entry, one completes a visitor’s form and then there are always two very helpful and knowledgable people at the desk waiting to assist. In the large room there are an array of microfilm and microfiche readers and printers and tables and chairs and paper and pencils and index files and… .and.
The assistants take your request and recover the archive, usually in the form of a microfilm and one retires to do the research in the darkened half of the room under the hood of the film reader. For example, I wanted to see a copy of the certificate which our William was given which verified his right to the particular 1000 acres he was granted. There it was on the film. Amazing. I even had assistance from the desk in reading the old fashioned handwriting which the assistant was familiar with. I now have an A3 copy of that certificate and I think on GoogleEarth I could plot the land of my fathers. Good eh!
This Land is My Land
Gerald and Jill generously drove us up river to New Norfolk and we visited a “small luxury hotel” called Woodbridge. Our “ticket” for the visit and tour was my Great Great Uncle Thomas Roadknight who built it (or the first part of it) in 1825. He was William’s bachelor brother who emigrated with him. This visit was a treat, and the owner John Grimley was also able to direct us to the site of the fabled 1000 acres of our family. This was 12km up the Derwent River at the “rapids” where the Plenty River joins the Derwent and the wee “settlement” is called Plenty. We think the property is now shared between farms named “Ivanhoe”(800 acres) and “Cluan”(200 acres) We drove up there and short of time, I only had enough time to step on the land and take a few photos.
Last Monday, Paul and Vicki Turvey loaned us their car and we returned to Plenty. We met the present owners Elaine and David Howell and were generously escorted over the whole property. We possibly saw the spot in the river where William messed his copybook when he shot and wounded a convict he thought was escaping and for his sin received 7 years imprisonment on infamous Sarah Island…. But that is the beginning of another magnificent story which will premiere in Hollywood sometime before I pass on if I can get the screen writing done in time.
Then we crossed the river and explored our way overland and east to Richmond, a nice old historic town that is filled with artists and their shoppes and supposed to be Australia’s finest Georgian village. It has the oldest masonry arch bridge and the oldest RC church in Australia. It also sports a horrible 1830 gaol. I hope some of the present tourist entry fee goes to the flowers for convict graves! But for us, the present centre piece of Richmond is the 1/16 scale model of Hobart Town in the 1820’s. We wanted to see what it looked like when William and Thomas carried their dear old Dad’s body off the “Skelton.” This was an excellently crafted work of one man and we are amazed that it took him only 2 years to construct it. So ended a great day.
Jack and Beth Riddiford (Jack was an engineering student at university with me in the fifties) live at Sandy Bay in Hobart. But the love of their life and the never ending work of their hands is their 1830’s slab cottage at Bream Creek on the way to Port Arthur.
We had planned ahead of time to go on 28 April to visit them at their cottage. But meanwhile their cottage neighbour had made his annual urgent phone call to announce that 28 was to be harvest day for their vineyard. Yes! We had hit the jackpot. We duly arrived at 8am and were issued with secateurs and donned warm clothes against the nasty coastal southerly breeze. Then we picked grapes and picked grapes and picked grapes for 5 hours. It was as exciting as can be. They were small, dark, juicy and sweet as could be. I now know the feeling of selecting a perfect, tapered, mouth-sized bunch of sweet seedless grapes and crushing the mouthful with all available teeth and tongue. I resisted the temptation for a couple of hours, but then when morning tea didn’t eventuate, I discovered this bliss of Bacchus. I am sure that Bacchus knew what I now know, that fresh is best when it comes to grapes. It was glorious to be able to chomp the top off maybe a dozen, maybe a score, of the best of Alistair’s grape bunches. Better than Yumm!
Alistair will have good red and real body in his wine this year. Twice, I drew much blood with the ends of the secateurs from the ends of my fingers and learned to respect these weapons of self destruction. Another great day it was. In one morning I demolished not just my fingertips, and not just a few grape bunches, but also my world view that wine grapes are always sour. Too bad it has taken 70 years and there are only a few harvests left!
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
From our flat we can see the parklands that surround the magnificent Government house and the Botanical Gardens. The ground profile between is like a big “W.” The eye takes one down the slope that is Patrick St across 2 or 3 main streets running parallel to the river, over the hump in middle of the “W” and up the other steep and residentially-crowded other leg. So on the morning of our visit to the RTBG we knew what was ahead. Steep up, and steep down, on aging legs. But then a picnic in idyllic surrounds.
On a previous visit in spring, the gardens were ablaze with tulips, and this memory pulled us back. This time it was the autumn colours, and a huge specimen ash tree and a huge elm both drew my breath. So did a Japanese maple. So did Pete’s Vege patch with beans as high as childhood’s Jack’s. And I admired Pete’s quinces. There is a lovely hot house which is home for thousands of begonias in beautiful and hugely colourful displays.
Of garden walls there are none better in our world. Brick with arches. Hollow, would you believe, to allow furnace gases to pass though and warm up the wall for the espaliers. Buttressed because they are so high.
The pioneers did well to establish these gardens, but someone boobed. They let the highway and the railway cut off the gardens from the River. So what we have is a beautiful place with a high cyclone wire fence penetrated by continuous traffic noise. A deaf man could inhabit the place but he would still love to have his gardens enjoy the River. I imagine this place with water-lapped sand and a quiet riverside promenade. Or perhaps Gov Arthur could return and build more of his fabulous garden walls to block the noise.
Prue’s eye caught sight of the red London double decker tourist bus that plies between Gardens and Downtown and she rode high and waved as I set out across the wild bush park along the paths through the gum trees towards the top of the big W.
Neither Prue nor I are religious but we do worship God.
For the convicts, religion was thought to be good for their rehabilitation and so there were church buildings designed especially for them. We attended a service in one of these on our first Sunday and sat in pews which had dividers separating them into groups of four, and with gates into the aisles. The current Hobart city fathers will not allow the current church elders to modify this serious historical monument to the security of 1840 worship.
During our first visit to Hobart we were embraced by a lively Anglican group. Their church building was the stone St Johns on Goulburn St. But it had trouble with stone decay which rendered the spire dangerous. So that building is now a family home. Two other major stone church buildings in town were built with materials from poor quality quarries and have been closed to the public in the last year or two.
The Baptist Tabernacle in North Hobart is another stone church building and it is where we have been going on Sunday mornings. The people are of all ages including children. One lady there under her own steam in the row in front of us, was over 100 yrs. We all enjoy our Sunday worship time together. We sing the hymns of faith and hear the Word of God and it is all good. A cuppa afterwards in the hall offers opportunity to meet new friends. One such friend is Laurie Rowston who is a skilled book binder. He runs a weekly church based hobby course in book binding. It is open to the public and the class is a lesson in itself in how to meet the instantaneous demands of the needy and the old and the disabled and a few sparkly enthusiasts. Laurie offered to meet me in his home to show me what I would be missing because we would be leaving Hobart after only one class. As a result, I now have another good friend and – I think I can also now bind a book.
On the spiritual side, Hobart has a difficult history to deal with, as do all penal colonies. The horrors of these places are certainly resident in memories and it is a worry to me that at Port Arthur these horrors are glorified for the sake of tourist income. There will be those living here today who are as captive in their spirits as the convicts were in body, mind and soul, and I am so glad that Jesus “came to set the captives free.” He found me and did it! One day, I pray this real liberty will be proclaimed over Our Hobart and that this city, in which I am a stakeholder, will be a place of freedom from all ill will and a place of real blessing for all who live here and all who visit.
As we Depart
As we depart we are grateful for the sweet memories. For friends and rellies especially, who have loved us enough to house us, take us out, feed us, teach us, lend us their cars and bikes, introduce us to other friends, set up email services for us, show us their properties, and for those who look after our affairs at home in NZ. We praise God for the beautiful tourist weather, for good health and the time and the energy to renew our friendships.
We recall with pleasure our excursions into Woolworths, Coles, Chickenfeed, the Scallops Shop, the Cygnet Bakery, the Wholesale Meat Shop, McDonalds, Mures FishnChips, Bakers Delight, the Bike Shop on Elizabeth, Bargain Rentals, and other shops in which we walked but did no business. We are sorry Hobart that we are not big spenders, but we have left behind very little carbon in your air despite the gross puffing up your hillsides.
We are grateful for the services provided here for corporate worship, for transport, for reading and research, and for the radio and TV programs which have stimulated us.
I will probably remember for ever my first Anzac dawn service and my ride over Tasman Bridge, my ride to Claremont and Cadbury’s factory along the cycleway, the beauty of the Huon, the thrill of the land at Plenty, the awesomeness of the Mt Wellington summit, the Rubidge picnics at Richmond, New Norfolk, Waterworks Reserve and Huonville, the visits with Auntie Ruth, the walks with Prue, and the thrill of the ride on the Tiger.
I really enjoyed you. Now we know each other, I do hope we will come again to walk you and watch and listen with you, and feel you holding me high over Our Happy Hobart. Au revoir!