Launceston Up Close

  Stories, tall and small about Launceston, Tasmania

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Launceston - A Walk Through A Colonial Time Capsule

Posted on 10 January, 2019 at 23:15 Comments comments (1)

You have just landed in Launceston, you have 24 hours to see as much as you can around the town but you don’t want to be running around like a headless chook. So where do you go to get the most out of the town that is chock full of iconic locations?

There are a couple of places you really do need to suss out and two of them are at each end of the CBD – Cataract Gorge at the western end, and City Park is at the east end. Then there’s the big choice of stuff in the middle, and all of it is of historic interest to enthusiasts and plebs alike.

The historical context is important as it links everything together.

In a nutshell, in 1803, Lt Col William Patterson, a botanist who joined the army to pay his debts, led a group of convicts and free settlers to establish a presence on the north coast of Van Dieman’s Land (changed to Tasmania in the 1850’s, and to Tassie in the 1950’s). This was to ward off the French who had shown some interest in this part of the world.

This was very soon after Matthew Flinders and George Bass had just established that VDL was in fact an island. After a bit of too-ing and fro-ing, a settlement was established at the confluence of the North and South Esk rivers opposite the entrance to what is now ‘Cataract Gorge’. A Lt William Collins had sailed up the Tamar River and seen at this spot the ‘most beautiful place in the known world’. While he had not seen as much of the world as most of us, it does look pretty good when the weather and time of day is just right.

So in 1804 Launceston was named after the birthplace of the Governor of the Australian Colony and after almost starving to death – European farming techniques fail badly ‘down-under’, the town slowly became the centre of settlement on the north coast. It had a very busy harbour at one time, boasting more trade than even Hobart, and this is evident today where the magnificent Customs House stands near the site of the old wharf.

When the bubble burst here following WW1, and vessels coming from the UK bypassed Tassie and went straight to Port Jackson, Launceston slowed to a crawl. As you walk through town you can see a plethora of old Georgian and early Victorian buildings which underline the importance of the town to the early development of Australia. But these warehouses and offices emptied and many have been repurposed more than once over the last 100+ years rather than be torn down and rebuilt.

Consequently, most buildings have a story, and you’ll see much evidence of the heritage being preserved. Look out for little blue plaques which will tell you a little about the ex-shop or ex-warehouse.

Then of course there is the river. The South Esk comes out of Cataract Gorge, and the North Esk, comes past the brewery, where they meet just in front of the Seaport development. You can jump on a scenic cruise which takes about an hour and takes in both rivers and under Kings Bridge for a bit of the gorge. If you walk along the levee past Boag’s Brewery you can look across to Invermay and the University of Tasmania and the museum part QVMAG, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, in the old railway workshops.

The Art Gallery bit is just past the town centre above Seaport on Wellington Street.

The most direct route to Cataract Gorge from City Park, which is where Government House used to be, and where the very impressive Albert Hall is now, is straight up Brisbane Street. It will take you past a haunted pub thru what was once snobville, but are now mostly offices and repurposed homes.

On your left, The Princess Theatre is a lovely old place with an art deco façade which was once Victorian, but inside it is pure pre-1900 splendour. It was built by a Vaudeville entrepreneur who was going to present stage shows and extravaganzas, but on opening day the stage area was not completed, so he showed a movie instead, and so it operated as a cinema for the next XX years!

As you cross the intersection of George Street, you will enter the section of Brisbane Street referred to as ‘The Avenue’. It has trees. More shops, and on your right the old Brisbane Hotel, which is built on the site of the very first construction, an inn built of sticks and mud. The hotel you see here is a little run down and now is home of an arcade, but it was once the top hotel in the north. Royalty, Test cricketers, movie stars all stayed at the Brissy. Have a look in the arcade; there is some interesting reading on the walls.

You’ll also pass the old Majestic Theatre, now a men’s clothing store. It was built by the same guy that built the Princess, and finished in about 1911 as a purpose built cinema. Then on your left is ‘The Quadrant’, a pedestrian precinct with a story.

In the parcel of buildings bounded by Brisbane, St John Streets and The Quadrant, is the original ‘Launceston Hotel’, built by Richard White. ‘Dicky’, as he preferred to be called, came to Launceston via Port Arthur and Norfolk Island. His origin is a little vague – did he come from Cajun roots in French New Orleans, or the slums of Manchester? Either way, he was in England where desperation drove him to highway robbery and transportation to the Colonies. He ended up at Norfolk Island where he mended his ways and became a boon to the island and where he eventually earned his freedom. We next hear he arrived here in town, with a bit of money to his name where he built the Launceston Hotel. Rumour has it he supplemented his income with Australia’s first casino. He was a character, getting around in top hat and cane, and was allegedly the inspiration for the character on a Johnny Walker whiskey bottle!

There is a spot in The Quadrant which refers to a well used to water the hotel guest’s horses, and there is also a lane celebrating his being. He died relatively young, but he left many kids he shared with his wife whom he met on their cruise.

On-on westerly and you will enter the Brisbane Street Mall. It was the very first pedestrian Mall in Australia, as it was closed to cars in the early 70s. The Mall has recently been upgraded with sun shade and seats and some tame Tasmanian Tigers roaming up and down the path.

Further along you will pass the local cinema and more evidence of repurposing, where Morty’s service centre for people replaced the service centre for cars and trucks. Great spot for a coffee and a snack.

If you turn right at the next corner, Wellington Street, and walk to Patterson Street, you will see the Art Gallery of QVMAG up on your left, just past the Technical College.

Just behind the Gallery was the location for the colony’s jail and execution yard. It was right at the head of the Tamar River, and as boats came into set down new settlers and convicts, they were often met by the grisly scene of ‘ne’er-do-wells’ dangling by their necks.

Turn left at Patterson Street and you can see the land rising up ahead, though you won’t have to climb it! Over the traffic bridge you can see out to your right Royal Park, a popular spot for concerts and fireworks each New Year and Australia Day. You will pass Launceston College on your left but down to your right you will find the Tamar River Yacht Club, Australia’s first and the longest running in the Southern Hemisphere. Down the pathway, just before the seafood restaurant turn left to follow the path toward Cataract Gorge. This takes you through Kings Park and below the old Stillwater Flour Mill, now a popular pub.

Not far to go! Walk under the highway traffic bridge and you will come up near Kings Bridge, and across the road you will see ‘Penny Royal’.

Penny Royal is a theme park built in an old quarry, and which has free entry, though the activities do attract a fee. The theme is the adventures of Tassie’s most famous bushranger, ‘Matthew Brady’. He was a gentleman to the ladies, and more than one swooned before him. He was also tough on blokes who mistreated a woman, which also made them swoon over him. He was caught near Launceston by another famous colonial, John Batman whose story we learned at school, but now whose story is getting a bit tarnished. John Batman versus John Pascoe Fawkner – who ‘was’ the founder of Melbourne. That’s another story, but in 1835 they both left from Launceston to be the first to settle in Port Philip Bay!

Penny Royal has a great boat ride which takes you under the park, and you can go rock climbing, ride a zip-line or ride in an old sail boat as you chase Matthew Brady up the Tamar, it’s all good fun.

At Kings Bridge you can look down the throat of Cataract Gorge. When the weather is up and the gorge full of water, teeming thrashing like a manic washing machine it can be pretty daunting. But most of the time, it’s a sedate waterway that is a scenic rendezvous for over 100,000 people every year. You can walk along either side of the gorge to the basin and it’s another world. Quiet, green, cool, aromatic…all apply here. Note that the walk on the southern side of the gorge is a lot tougher than the north side. Near the end of the path the gazebo has a nice area to sit down and sip a cup of lemon tea, and the peacocks will put on a show for you, no charge!

As you will see, it’s not far from the CBD to the gorge, or to City Park. It’s not far to anywhere! There is a free ‘Tiger’ sightseeing bus, though last time we rode it, the commentary was a bit hit or miss. Mostly miss. And you will find you have landed in the friendliest city in Australia.

Did I tell you about the boardwalk and the best fish and chips in Tasmania? Perhaps another time!


Ronald Campbell Gunn - A Colonial Administratve Acheiver

Posted on 19 November, 2017 at 0:50 Comments comments (0)

Ronald Campbell Gunn, born in 1808 and died in 1881, was rated as Tasmania’s most eminent botanist even though his prime positions were of a public nature. He held many roles in public life including, but not limited to, being a member in both houses of the Tasmanian Parliament.

Gunn, whose family were not related to the family of Launceston builders of the same name, was born in Cape Town, South Africa, the son of a British Army officer. As a child he followed his father’s postings to Mauritius and the West Indies until of an age where he was educated in Scotland.

In 1829, at age 21, he arrived in Van Dieman’s Land where he was positioned as superintendent of convicts in Hobart Town. He obviously impressed the right people, or maybe he didn’t, because the next year he was superintendent of convicts for the whole of northern Tasmania at age 22!

He was also encouraged to indulge in his love of botany which gave his many and varied excursions around the state a double purpose.

Gunn was instrumental in establishing the Launceston Horticultural Society in 1838 and turning what was a field of thistles into today’s City Park – a peaceful haven walking distance from the city centre. A bronze statue of Ronald Gunn is there located, celebrating his contribution to Launceston and Tasmania.

He also initiated the formation of the Hobart Horticultural Society which was established in 1839, just after Launceston!

As his skills in public office became more apparent, he was endowed with the offices of Police Magistrate (of Circular head), then assistant Police Magistrate of Hobart, and in 1839 he became private secretary to Governor Sir John, and Lady Franklin. He was also clerks of the executive and legislative councils, and would have no doubt contributed to the creation of the rules, regulations and laws of the early days of Tasmanian self rule.

In 1855 he was elected to the Launceston seat for the Legislative Council which he gave away to win the seat of Selby in the House of Assembly. Gunn retired from parliament in 1860 and became a commissioner for crown lands amongst other government jobs.

All the time in any role, he spent time discovering and cataloguing and preserving samples of Tasmanian flora and fauna. He collected mammals, birds, reptiles and shellfish which were sent to the British Museum. He even collected algae! And in 1854 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.

As if he did not have enough diversions, he also studied geology part time and was employed by the government to report on mining and potential mining across the colony.

His opinion was highly valued, and in 1864 Gunn was one of three Australian commissioners seconded by the Govt of New Zealand to choose a new capital for NZ. They followed his recommendation of Wellington rather than Auckland.

His first love was always botany and he continued to collect and catalogue samples. Despite his intimate knowledge of Tasmanian wildlife and plants, trees and so on, he did not author any major tomes off his own bat, though he did contribute to a number of papers and was editor of the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science. He also contributed to the London Journal of Botany, and wrote the section on zoology in Rev John West’s ‘The History of Tasmania’.

Amazingly, Ronald Gunn also had time for a family! His first wife died at the birth of their sixth child, and with his second he had nine more children.

Ronald Gunn semi retired back to Launceston where he became Recorder of Titles and lived just out of town in an area called Newstead. In 1876, he retired due to ill health and finally passed away in March of 1881.

Ronald Campbell Gunn, 1808 – 1871, was a colonial mover and his contribution to the development and statehood of Van Dieman’s Land/Tasmania is probably overlooked in the whole scheme of things, but we know, don’t we! A cheer for Mr Gunn, and his work to build this town, and this state!

Path through Launceston's immaculate City Park, once called 'The People's Park'.  A feature on our Morning Heritage Walking Tour.

Launceston Up Close - Linked In Article

Posted on 8 November, 2017 at 19:00 Comments comments (0)

Latest news suggests tourist numbers to Northern Tasmania are expected to double in the next three years. That is a big call, and along with this prediction is the question - Is the north of the state equipped to handle the expected influx of local and international tourists in terms of accommodation and infrastructure? Time will tell I guess.


I hope that the prediction comes true, and I hope it starts this year. I hope it starts this week!


The heart of the north of Tassie is in Launceston. It is a beautiful little city and very few leave here not wanting to return and see, feel and taste more of Lonnie. Visitors have a few options when it comes to how they are going to see Launceston or its surrounding countryside.


Getting out to our local vineyards is a popular choice with some great vintages produced in relatively young vineyards. The Tamar wine growing region is already creating waves internationally with its cool climate whites and reds which can vary taste wise from winery to winery as each has its own 'micro-climate'. Wine tasting tours are very well patronised and with other venues to complement the wineries - cheese makers, chocolate makers and salmon ponds - they can be a full day of tasty decadence.


The out of town tours are fun and expensive. If you are on a budget, and wine, cheese and chocolate is not on your menu, but you would like to take away some wonderful memories of Launceston there some worthy alternatives.


The City of Launceston is quite small, so you can actually get out and see what Lonnie has and you dont need a bus to get around, because everything is within walking distance of most of the major hotels. You do not need a bus! You do not need to pay for a bus! Now tour operators heading out of town to the wineries generally have a pick up service where they will go from hotel to hotel picking up bookings and then head out and do the tour. Then at end of day, they will drop everyone off at their hotel or in the city if required.


Doing a local, 'walking' tour, a bus is redundant. Even the pick up service is redundant as most of the city hotels are within cooee of the city centre. So a bus would be wasted, and why pay for something you don't need.


There a number of walking tours available to visitors to Launceston. The Launceston Ghost Tour is very popular and takes you to some of the city's allegedly haunted locales. For the foodies, there is the Taste, Walk, Talk tour which will take you around some of the interesting eateries in town. But if you like the historically preserved aspect of Launceston. If you would like to be towed around the city on foot to see and hear how many of the buildings have contributed to the ambiance that is Launceston, then Launceston Up Close has two tours that will take you around the city.


Our knowledgeable tourist guide will escort you from Prince's Square to City Park, or from the city and back via the rivers and Kings Bridge. On each tour there are uniquely interesting pieces of Australian history that predates anything that happened in Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth and that are as old as Sydney or Hobart. Each tour has a refreshment stop at an iconic location, and both are not so long as to exhaust you, but long enough to feel like you have seen a good chunk of Lonnie! Your guide will tell you stories that will colour your morning or afternoon and you can ask anything. If he or she does not know, he will find out by the end of the tour, or he will make something up!


Launceston is a wonder of a place. The buildings here are a time capsule of the 19th Century that have been preserved by circumstance rather than by management. The town had its boom time in the late 1800's when it was the food basket of Australia. Tassie was feeding not just Tassie, but the Victorian, South Australian, and Swan River colonies and their gold rushes. You will see evidence of the money that was flowing through Launceston.


After 1900, things slowed down big time. WW1 and WW2, and the Great Depression, saw Launceston lose its pre-eminence as the rest of Australia caught up and industry and grain and wool and minerals were all sourced from the mainland. The money stopped, and as the years rolled on, as businesses rose and fell and new facilities were needed, rather than knock down the colonial buildings, they were gutted and repurposed. Many Launceston 'Georgian' and 'Victorian' buildings have had many lives having been repurposed more than once. Warehouses became office blocks or accommodation or a retailer. Mills became offices and restaurants. But the buildings remained and now they have historical significance and are on the national register.


On a Launceston Up Close heritage walking tour, you will hear about this repurposing and you will hear how the city has kept its heart and the heritage of each building.


If you would like more information on the morning or afternoon heritage walking tour hosted by Launceston Up Close, or if you would like to book a spot on our schedule, please call us - 0414 749 626, or check out our web site - -


or even have a look at our facebook page - https/


Discover Tasmania, discover Launceston and discover Launceston Up Close, hear the stories, see the historic sites!

Reverend John West - A Minister With A Mission

Posted on 7 November, 2017 at 18:40 Comments comments (0)

One of the colonial clergy to make his mark on Launceston, Tasmania and Australia, was a Congregational minister  called John West.  He was born in 1809 in England and followed the family business becoming a minister and working in various parts of England until 1838 when he was accepted for service in Van Dieman’s Land.

With wife in tow his family arrived in Hobart in late 1838 and moved very soon after to Launceston.  Then in 1842 he was offered the new St John’s Chapel, opposite St John’s Square and he really started to gain a reputation as an honest, socially aware individual with a sincere desire to move his flock forward.  Taking half of Rev Charles Price’s flock from the Tamar St Church when he opened the doors at St. Johns may or may not have been well received however.

West became a popular member of the Launceston community and in 1842, with James Aikenhead and JS Waddell established The Examiner newspaper which is still Launceston’s premier daily newsrag, and one of Australia’s oldest continuously published papers.

Reverend West had his fingers in numerous community pies as he helped to build the city that is Launceston today.  These included the City Mission helping the needy members of town, and which is still running with several outlets in and around Launceston.  He helped to establish the first large scale public Hospital, and he was part of the party which created the general cemetery, which was behind where the newer general hospital stands today. 

The good minister also helped to found the Mechanics Institute, which sadly whose building was demolished to make way for the decorative garden at Civic Square.  And he also helped to create the Cornwall Insurance Company.  Then in 1847 he was a cofounder of the Hobart High School, which was non-denominational and aimed to provide education for boys going into commercial, professional and agricultural pursuits.

Despite all of the above, he was still to do his best work.

The Anti Transportation League

He was totally anti transportation of convicts to the colony, and worked tirelessly to abolish the transportation of those convicts, not only to VDL, but also to all the other Australian colonies.  Rev John West was effectively the leader of the anti transportation movement, talking to the public on the subject, using his pulpit to address the issue with his congregation, and in the colonial newspapers, not just The Examiner.

He sought to awaken public consciousness to the negative effects that the practise had on their lives, and their children’s lives. He tried to turn van Dieman’s Land from a prison island, to a bona fide settlement for free settlers. After three years of local meetings and addressing groups and rallies, he realised he had to bring in all the colonies to act as one, that individually they would not get the ear of the British government.  In a protest meeting in Launceston in 1850 he proposed to seek the cooperation of all the abolishers across the country.

West wrote a letter which successfully aroused the populace and a conference was held in Melbourne in 1851, which led to the forming of the Australasian League for the Prevention of Transportation.  West’s passion was evident and his addresses were always well attended, and his eminence brought nominations for him to take the argument to England!

John West was not without critics.  While most newspapers were sympathetic to the cause and carried his words to the masses, a few were not so charitable.  According to the ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’, ‘the Hobart Advertiser, always hostile to the cause, made such serious personal attacks on West that he was forced to seek redress. The matter was settled out of court, West receiving apologies and 50 pounds, which he gave to the Hobart High School to buy books for its library.’

Most papers were as mentioned particularly supportive of Rev John West’s passion to cease the transportation of convicts, especially his home town paper, The Examiner.  From its pages on April 25, 1852 - 'His was the inspiring spirit that gave vitality and impetus to every well-concerted and successful movement. He was the guiding hand that chiefly directed the machinery … his tongue was ever eloquent, his pen was incessantly occupied. He did all that is permitted to the most gifted to accomplish'

Trying To Separate Church From State

Reverend John West was obviously a bit of a juggler!  While all this was happening, he came back to Launceston, to his congregation in St John’s Chapel, to resume his duties at the church.  In 1851, still being a man for worthy causes, he became aware of a bill before the Legislative Council which was about the state providing aid for churches in VDL.  West however was a voluntaryist, like most Congregationalists, and believed a church should stand on its merits and be funded by the people who worshipped under its roof.  His was a voice to keep the church separate from the state.  He couldn’t turn the heads that mattered on this score, and in 1853 the bill went through.

Another major event in 1853, van Dieman’s Land, became known as Tasmania.

A Recorder of Colonial History

Still the juggler, West was also commissioned to write a history of the empires most southern colony.  While this tied in with the recording of the history of transportation to the antipodes, there was a growing antipathy of the colony’s past, even though it was only 40-odd years old.  Wealthy Hobart abolishment supporter Henry Hopkins saw West as the man for the job, to record the history of Tasmania, thus far. 

He wrote two volumes, and they are available online at several free ebook sites.  Being able to canvas people that had been there since the very beginning, and his style of journalistic detachment made for a colourful, accurate journal.  John West on this task alone is considered the father of Australian history writing.

A Fearless Journalist

West was also a prolific contributor to the colonial media in Tasmania, and the Sydney Morning Herald.  He wrote many articles of an educational nature on not just transportation, but also the benefits of Federation.  He was a good friend of the publisher of the SMH, John Fairfax who was also a Congregationalist, and though he had no experience, he was offered the job as editor of that icon of Australian press.  Sadly, this meant he had to leave Launceston.

He continued to stir the pot on many issues, and was libelled, and sued for libel many times.  Whenever he won suit, he donated the proceedings to charity.

Reverend John West was a colourful character who followed his convictions with passion.  He was a moral man with little time for material gains, but with lots of time for social justice and application of just and considerate principles. 

He died in Woollahra in 1873, a well liked gentleman who had unusual patience with the misguided and uninformed.  He was an honest man.

Lt Col William Paterson - A Dubious Leader

Posted on 21 October, 2017 at 21:20 Comments comments (0)

The gentleman that led the settlers to eventually establish the spot that became Launceston was one Lieutenant Colonel William Paterson. An army man that probably should not have been in the army!

As the son of a gardener from near Glamis Castle in Scotland, Paterson’s first love was botany. And it was as a botanist he spent several early years in South Africa collecting plants and sending them back to England. He was sponsored by the Countess of Strathmore who had an interest in botany and associated with luminaries, such as Sir Joseph Banks, the president of the Royal Society.

In 1789, Paterson actually published a journal based on his African trip, entitled, ‘Narrative Of Four Journeys into the Country of Hottentots and Caffraria’, and he dedicated this book to Banks rather than his patron, the Countess, as she had lost control of her fortune to a new husband who refused to reimburse Paterson for debts incurred on her behalf in Africa.

Paterson was now broke and professionally embarrassed and instead of a career as a botanist, he joined the army as an ensign and went to India. He continued his correspondence with Sir Joseph Banks and wrote of further specimens he had acquired from the sub-continent region. He was promoted to Lieutenant while there and later in 1789 when he returned to England, he was promoted to Captain in the New South Wales Corps. He sailed to join the Corps in 1891, where he was immediately given command of Norfolk Island.

He continued to collect and send botanic and insect samples to Banks, until he returned to Sydney in 1793. Here he continued his botanic habit and also attempted to cross The Blue Mountains, but like so many others, he was unsuccessful. He also became second in command of the NSW Corps and when his boss, Major Francis Grose left Sydney, Paterson assumed command of the colony in an administrative role until Governor John Hunter arrived 9 months later.

It was during this time that the NSW Corps became an almost evil entity in its own right. 

Paterson was not a strong leader and bowed down to his junior officers. He gave out land grants to all and sundry and did nothing to control the empire building or illegal activities relating to the rum trade of those under his command. When Hunter arrived, the new Governor was unable to repair the damage Paterson had allowed to grow and the NSW Corps continued to fester.

Paterson meanwhile, was promoted to Major and in 1795 returned to England on sick leave. His botanic interested continued in England where he liaised with Banks regarding which trees and plants would do well in the Colony, and in 1798 was promoted once more, to Lieutenant Colonel and elected as a fellow to the Royal Society. In the scientific community, this was almost as good as a knighthood.

But he was still a soldier, and in 1799 was sent back to the colony at Sydney Town with orders to investigate the activities of NSW Corps officers trading in spirits, rum, to control it and repair the good name of the NSW Corps. In retrospect, it seems to some that Paterson was sent back to investigate conditions that had their gestation while Paterson himself was in charge!

He became highly critical of Hunter’s governing, complaining to Sir Joseph Banks of the excessive importation of spirits and the high cost of living. Even the Irish were threatening an armed coup!

Governor Philip Gidley King replaced Governor Hunter and Paterson was appointed Lieutenant Governor but the controversies continued. In 1801 John Macarthur, the man who introduced the Spanish Merino to colonial Australia, also a member of the NSW Corps, had a to-do with Paterson based on letters containing volatile information between the wives of the above gentlemen. Paterson challenged Macarthur to a duel, which resulted in Paterson being wounded and Macarthur being arrested and sent back to England. All very dramatic!

Paterson was still non-confrontational with officers of the NSW Corps, even though his was generally honourable in his activities, which included continuing to collect and catalogue specimens from the Hawkesbury region. His health however was deteriorating and in 1803 was relieved of his duties to convalesce.

Then, in 1804, following instructions from London who were concerned that the French were showing a keen interest in establishing a presence in the region, Paterson was chosen to lead a settling party to Northern Van Dieman’s Land.

In late 1804, 50-year-old Paterson established as beach-head at Georgetown, and then Yorktown, both of which were unsuitable for settling, so in 1806 he moved down to the confluence of the North and South Esk Rivers at Patersonia, which he quickly changed to Launceston.

The weather and rough conditions took their toll on Paterson’s health, but he kept his botanist eye open and collected many more specimens back to Banks, and even found a great outcrop of iron near Port Dalrymple.

The turmoil in Sydney town continued with Governor Bligh being arrested by the NSW Corps. He was called in 1808 to return to Sydney and take over, but ill health and the possible arrival of a new governor were his excuses for not taking up the top job. He eventually left Port Dalrymple in 1809 for Sydney and took command.

He was not a strong leader, with his health keeping him under medical care at Parramatta for most of the time, and the group of officers that had thrown Bligh out were really running the show. When Gov Lachlan Macquarie arrived he described Paterson as ‘such an easy, good natured, thoughtless man, that he latterly granted lands to almost every person who asked’. William Paterson was quite unsuitable for the position in such a precipitous time.

After Macquarie arrived, Patterson left with the NSW Corps for England, but in May1810, he died at sea off Cape Horn.

Paterson was a scientist first and a soldier second and a leader last. He was in contact with leading scholars in England for most of his time and a number of specimens he sent back are still on display at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. He introduced the peach to the colony, and planted a Bonaparte pear tree in the governors garden which is now located in City Park, Launceston. The tree no longer produces fruit, but still stands tall in the park.

Incidentally, his wife Elizabeth was refused a pension after he died and was ordered to repay 200- pounds that he had paid in public salaries without authority!

In March 1814 she married Mr Grose, but he died 2 months later in May. She remained close friends with the Macarthurs and died herself in 1839.

Matthew Brady - The Gentleman Bushranger.

Posted on 16 October, 2017 at 4:40 Comments comments (0)

Young Matthew Brady is probably Launceston’s most famous bushranger even though he didn’t spend that much time in these parts, but he was finally caught not fat from here by John Batman – but more about that a little later.

Born in 1799 as Matthew ‘Bready’, he was apparently a groom in the Manchester region. He developed excellent riding skills, to the point of being described as an elegant horseman. The crime which got him transported to the penal colony of Sydney Town for 7 years however was less than elegant – stealing a basket of food.

So in 1820, he arrived on board the convict ship Juliana and proceeded to become a pain in the colonial butt. He attempted to abscond, unsuccessfully a number of times, as he rebelled against the conditions convicts had to endure. It was a futile action which earned him a total of 350 lashes, the kind that ripped the flesh from a man’s back and laid his hide wide open – but he survived.

Brady, as he was now known, was finally sent down to Sarah Island.

Sarah Island was a short lived cure for troublesome or particularly nasty convicts. It was only open for about 11 years between 1822 and 1833. The conditions were abysmal, the discipline was hard, and it was supposedly escape proof. It was an island in the middle of Macquarie Harbour on the unexplored south west coast of Van Dieman’s Land. The only way in was by boat and that was never a sure thing as a number of boats foundered on the rocks of ‘Hells Gate’, the narrow passage into Macquarie Harbour. Many convicts drowned in those surly waters.

There was no overland access to Macquarie Harbour so it was considered the ultimate unfenced jail.

There were some escape attempts certainly, Alexander Pearce for example. He led a party of convicts which included 8 other men and himself to try for freedom by walking out of the wilderness. He was caught, alone, having kept himself alive by killing and eating the other convicts one at a time. He was searched and a half eaten man’s arm was found in his pocket. Just something to nibble on, apparently!

In 1824, Matthew Brady and a group of convicts also attempted, but succeeded in escaping Sarah Island by disabling their guard and stealing a whaleboat. They used it to sail around the south coast of Van Dieman’s Land to a spot just short of Hobart. From there, they began the life of a bushranger.

Bushrangers were very common in early Tasmania. Being an island where convicts outnumbered the free settlers, it wasn’t particularly hard for convicts to head bush away from the lash and sadistic guards. But they still had to eat and cloth themselves, and being on an island, their resources were very limited, so bushranging was common. The penalty for being a bushranger was invariably death by hanging, and for many, it was considered a better way to go than being lashed.

So Brady and Co became bushrangers. But Brady had a code he insisted his gang lived by. They did not kill, nor would he rob or assault any women. He insisted on good manners and above board treatment as he robbed good citizens. He was Matthew Brady, ‘The Gentleman Bushranger’, and he actually earned quite a following – all female.

The military establishment however considered him extremely dangerous, particularly after ‘The Sorell Incident’.

A number of Hobart Town’s up and coming had sat down for a fine dinner near Sorell, east of Hobart and were overcome and taken into Sorell township. They then released all the convicts. While there, several soldiers returning from searching for the bushranger were caught unprepared and so were disarmed and locked up in the local jail. The garrison’s commander, Lieutenant William Gunn, was unfortunately shot in the arm which had to be later amputated.

The Governor, George Arthur, himself an army Lieutenant Colonel, was getting very angry at Brady’s activities, and the general populations favourable opinion of him. Arthur posted a reward for information leading to the capture of Matthew Brady. He offered land to free settlers, or a pardon and land to any convict who aided in Brady’s capture.

Brady however returned the favour by posting a reward for the capture and turning over to him of Governor George Arthur, the reward – 20 gallons of rum! The following notice was pinned to the door of the Royal Oak Inn in Crossmarch;

"It has caused Matthew Brady much concern that such a person as Sir George Arthur is at large. Twenty gallons of rum will be given to any person that can deliver this person to me. I also caution John Priest that I will hang him for his ill-treatment of Mrs. Blackwell, at Newtown."

In the meantime, Brady tried to capture a boat on the Tamar River. He set up a lookout and when a potential boat came along, he signalled below and Brady and crew tried to catch the boat. The first time they tried, they missed, but next time they succeeded. The scenic lookout on West Tamar Highway above a bend in the river, where his lookout watched and waited, is named Brady’s Lookout after Mr. Brady himself.

So they stole a boat and headed out in to Bass Strait, intending to sail to the mainland. But bad weather forced them back to the shores of Van Dieman’s Land – their naval adventure ended there.

Governor Arthur was so incensed; he increased his efforts to capture Brady. He increased the presence of soldiers around the colony by cancelling all leave and guarding likely targets. He also ‘used a thief to catch a thief’. By using convicts instructed to join his gang and provide information of Brady’s intentions Gov Arthur hoped to catch The Gentleman Bushranger.

It was this strategy that eventually led to the capture of Matthew Brady near Launceston in 1826.

The betrayals forced Brady to kill for the only time he was a bushranger. A Thomas Kenton, a deserter flew a white flag which was supposedly an ‘All Clear’ signal, but was actually a trap. A group of soldiers caught and tied Brady up, then went looking for other gang members. Brady managed to untie himself and escape. He went looking for, and found Kenton and after telling him he was going to kill him, shot him in the head.

Not long after, near Launceston Brady was once more betrayed by an ex- convict called Cowan for a full pardon. Brady escaped again, but was badly injured. A few days later, John Batman came across Brady after hearing he was in the area, and injured. Batman got the land grant, and Brady got the noose.

He was just 27 years old when hanged in May of 1826 at Hobart Gaol, where he complained at having to share his hanging with Thomas Jefferies, another mass murderer escapee with cannibalistic tendencies.

Many tears were shed on Brady’s behalf, and the floor of his cell was covered in flowers from the ladies of Hobart.

If you find yourself in Launceston with a few hours to spare, check out Penny Royal, which is very close to Kings Bridge at the mouth of the Cataract Gorge. There you will find a very neat little theme park which celebrates the life and adventures of ‘The Gentleman Bushranger’, one Matthew Brady. There is an excellent ‘ride’ which takes about 15 minutes and takes you through a series of stations where the story of his capture unfolds. Then you can watch a staged action where a Royal Navy brig chases down ‘The Glutton’, a boat captured by Brady and Co. Or take time out for a coffee or book a meal in the excellent restaurant.

You will find more information about Penny Royal at .

In the meantime, enjoy Launceston, and if you are thinking about a Heritage Walking Tour with Launceston Up Close, our PM tour will take you to Penny Royal – it’s on the way!


Batman or Fawkner?

Posted on 6 October, 2017 at 2:35 Comments comments (0)

While I was researching my Heritage Walking Tours, I came across the interesting story of John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner and just who established the first settlement on the shores of Port Philip Bay?  Which of the two could rightfully claim to be the father of what was to become Melbourne?

Perhaps a little about each bloke.

John Batman, born in Sydney 1801, was a colonial grazier who was described variously as a cheat, a liar, a thief and a murderer of Aborigines.

He was credited with the capture of bushranger Matthew Brady in 1826 when he stumbled upon the injured Brady who was in severe pain. Batman scored a grant of land, and Brady got the noose.

So he moved onto land in Northern Van Dieman’s Land that was ‘large in acreage but poor agriculturally’. Between 1828 and 1830 he took part in the round up and removal of aborigines in a dark part of Tasmanian history.

In 1833, Batman was diagnosed with Syphilis which would kill him in the end. In the meantime, he crossed paths with John Pascoe Fawkner and was awakened to the possibilities of the Western Port area of Port Philip Bay.

In 1835, as a member of the Port Philip Association, he sailed for Port Philip Bay where he signed an exploitative treaty with local indigenous people. He secured for himself 600,000 acres land in what today would be North Melbourne for some axes and some blankets.

Colonial Governor Bourke later declared the treaty to be invalid as the land had already been claimed for the Crown. Others later said that the aboriginal signatories would not have had any real notion of the legalities or of the transfer of ownership of land, which by lore, they did not actually ’own’ as much as they were ‘a part of’ the land.

John Batman in the meantime had returned to Launceston to get together a settling party and to return to set up ‘Batmania’. When they arrived in late 1835 at the mouth of the Yarra River, he was dismayed, and angry to find the crew of John Pascoe Fawkner had already set up camp and were settling in nicely, thank you very much!

Batman and his family settled at what was to become Batman’s Hill, but as his health rapidly failed due to the aforementioned syphilis, his wife left him and his son drowned in the Yarra. He spent his final months, ironically, in the care of local aborigines. He died in 1839.

Batman has been held up as the father of Melbourne by many, but is that title valid?

And then there was John Pascoe Fawkner.

In 1803, as a ten-year-old, Fawkner travelled with his convict father, mother and sisters as part of a settling party to colonise what was the southern part of Port Philip Bay. Under the leadership of Lt Gov David Collins, the party persisted under very trying conditions until Collins chose to abandon the area in 1804 and move to the new colony at Hobart Town in Van Dieman’s Land.

Fawkner grew up in Hobart Town, working various jobs until he fell afoul of the authorities when he innocently assisted some escaping convicts. He ended up being a convict himself!

After doing his time, he moved to Launceston with his lady where they married in 1822. Fawkner was particularly industrious, establishing a bakery, a timber business, a bookshop, a newspaper – The Launceston Advertiser, a nursery and an orchard. And in 1826, he obtained a license to operate the Cornwall Hotel.

It was in the Cornwall Hotel, allegedly, that Fawkner and John Batman sat down over a pint to discuss the possibilities that Port Philip Bay might present to an enterprising pair like themselves!

In April of 1835, John Pascoe Fawkner became a shipowner, with the ‘Enterprize’ to take him and a settling party to explore Port Philip Bay. In May 1835, Batman got the jump and led his party to an area west of the Yarra River. But when Fawkner made ready to leave in August 1835, creditors insisted he settle all debts beforehand, so his boat left without him.

The Enterprize arrived in Port Philip Bay with Captain John Lancey in charge of the expedition, and set down to build their store and grow veggies. They were the first settlers on the site of what became the City of Melbourne.

Fawkner arrived on the next trip of the Enterprize in October of 1835 and he continued his industrious ways. He opened Melbourne’s first hotel on the corner of William St and Flinders Lane.

He published Melbourne’s first newspaper, the ‘Melbourne Advertiser’ in 1838, the first ten editions of which were handwritten in ink. An old printing press was sourced from Hobart and 17 more editions were produced until it was closed down by the Governor because he didn’t have a newspaper license! So in 1839, with a new license, Fawkner published ‘The Port Philip and Melbourne Advertise’.

John Pascoe Fawkner also served in office – as a Market Commissioner, and in 1851 as a Victorian Legislative Councillor, a seat he held til he died in 1869, aged 77.

He was the grand old man of the Colony and was given a state funeral.

In another irony, Batman was originally buried in the old Melbourne Cemetery, but was exhumed and re-buried in the Fawkner Cemetery, named after his adversary.

So who was the first to settle Port Philip Bay? John Batman? John Pascoe Fawkner? Or should credit go the Captain Lancey and crew of the Enterprize, after all, they did set up camp where Melbourne is now.

As mentioned above, when John Batman and party returned to Port Philip Bay after his initial exploration and treaty signing, he returned to find Fawkner’s settlers already in place, he was quoted as saying there is more than enough room for everyone.

When you come to Launceston, the Cornwall Hotel is now The Batman Fawkner Hotel and Backpackers, but Macquarie House, where both settling parties were equipped with food and stores are here for your Kodak moments.

Cheers :)

The Old Cornwall Hotel of the early 1800s


The Cornwall Hotel today!

Awesome Tasmania

Posted on 2 October, 2017 at 0:50 Comments comments (0)

We did our first trip to Tasmania in 2012/13.  Neither of us had done Tassie, and decided at fairly short notice it was time to have a flyaway holiday, and Tassie won.  We flew out of Perth - the West Australia one - on Christmas night 2012.  So we had Chrissy at home, AND got a cheap flight out of Perth.  We passed thru Melbourne and hit Hobart where we grabbed a Subaru Forrester and we toured Tasmania.

We went in an anti-clockwise direction form Hobart, so Port Arthur, up the east Coast across the top and down the West as far as Strahan, then cross-country back to Hobart where we turned South.

We saw something awesome, every single day.  The scenery, the hairpins, the sheer walls, the rain forests, remote beach with a huge collection of sea blasted driftwood.  We climbed hills and glided down dales and ate in cute little towns and met some wonderful people.  And that would be the thing we really noticed.  We thought sandgropers were pretty friendly, but West Ozzies have nothing on Taswegians.  What a friendly bunch of people.  Sure there are some ferals here in Tassie, but they are probably imports anyway!

After that two week lap of Tassie, we knew we would be back. We had both felt we could live here, easy.

Roll forward to May last year, 2016.  We had been sitting in our house in South Guildford and we talked about Tasmania.  We wanted to go back again, just to confirm we liked it.  To remind us of what we liked about Tassie.  So we booked a motorhome and picked it up after we landed in Launceston.  We didnt really see much of Lonnie first time, so we sought to remedy that.

We headed out of Launcerston toward Burnie and got as far as Carrick - not far - and had to stop for a red light on the dashboard.  Turned out the red light was the kind you ignore, so said the rental agent.  But we did stop at Carrick pub and had an Egg and Bacon Roll.

Now I am a bus driver, short distance, long distance, express, day tours, extended tours, i have done them all.  And staple diet of bus drivers - bacon and egg toasted sandwich.  Energy food.  I first thought, they got the name wrong...egg and bacon....just doesnt roll off the tongue right.  Then, it was in a roll....a roll for goodness sake!  OK, so I was a bit dubious.  The'egg and bacon roll' came out, and it was gooooooooood :)   The roll was frrresh and plenty of bacon, and it was yummmmo.  We have been back since, still yummo.

So we overnited in Burnie, then down to Tarraleah and another overniter.  Down thru Hobart to Dover, and then back to Hobart for a few days, and finally a couple of days in Lonnie.  The net effect of this trip was, we both enjoiyed Launceston.  We stayed in the Big 4 Glen Dhu caravan park and the limitation of the motorhome once more became obvious, we had to walk into town or uproot the VW and then find parking.  Nahh, lets walk.  And its only 2Ks into town from Glen Dhu, so it wasnt so hard at all.  But we also wanted to check out real estate because we both wanted out of WA, and Launceston looked like a worthy place to set down our bundle. And we both decided we hated motorhomes!

We went back to Perth, and next day we both wanted to come back. We bit the bullet and didn't come straight back, but waited til last October, and we came back again, specifically to buy a house.  We looked at houses in Invermay which were cheap, but Invermay is also on a flood plain.  And a month after we did the motorhome trip, it rained in tassie and the Cataract lived up to its name, and the rivers flooded.  Invermay didnt flood, but they evacuated just in case.  It scared us away from the bargains in Invermay and we ended up buying a little house in Newstead. (which is also susceptible to flooding!) 

So we bought a bit of Tasmania, got a tenant in to pay the mortgage, and back to WA.  But we were coming back.  We set a June 30 deadline to be out of WA, and we even put a due date on our notice board in big red letters.  We spent a little finishing the front yard of our house in Perth, then sold it.  It paid for a new caravan and a ute to pull it, and departed on June 9, 2017.  We spent nearly 2 months driving from Perth to Launceston via Coober Pedy and lots of interesting places on the way.

We have been here in Launceston two calendar months and while we are still in our caravan in Glen Dhu, again, nice place by the way, the owners are spending money to improve it.  The boss started her new job last week, and I am building this business, Launceston Up Close. 

I enjoyed working in tourism in WA, telling folks stories about WA and its history and about its people.  Here in Launceston I have been busy researching - learning about Lt Col Bill Paterson, the Batman and Fawkner rivalry, and the fun the settlers had getting established here.  They had it tough, and no caravan!

There are some locals here that will also become part of Launceston's history, like Josef Chromy, a local winemaker and entrtepreneur.

Launceston is historic, it has character, and its our new home.

Welcome to our home :)