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 The twenty first century begins with a number of significant bicentenary events that shaped the history of Tasmania and forever changed the Aboriginal landscape. 

2001 FEDERATION – 2002 BAUDIN – 2003 – BOWEN – 2004 COLLINS

FREDA GRAY (OMA) is historian and president of the First Settlers 1804 Association, member of Manuta Tunapee Puggaluggalia Historical and Cultural Association.  As well as being a white cousin to a number of Lia Pootah Aboriginal people.  Freda wrote the following article about the early settlement of Risdon Cove for the Centenary of Federation book written by Kaye McPherson (BscHons) From the Dreamtime to now the Centenary of Federation 2001. 

In this year the bicentenary of Bowen it is a must to be included on the web site hosting the events that the Lia Pootah people are holding for this bicentenary, and the forth coming events to be held next year for the bicentenary of the arrival of Collins and the beginning of Tasmania as we know it today.



By Freda Morehouse Gray

Looking at special times in history gives Communities the opportunity to look back.   Federation one such event. The research undertaken on behalf of the Risdon Vale Neighbourhood House during the Centenary of Federation, has given many opportunities, not only for the written history of the area to be collected, also the memoirs of local residents.   Oral history, a very important aspect of any area, the human touch.   I sincerely thank members of the Neighbourhood House for their invitation to contribute to this publication.

For so long now, almost two hundred years, Tasmanians have been convinced that Lt. John Bowen returned to Sydney after the closing of the Risdon Settlement, and the area remained undeveloped.    It was a totally unsatisfactory place for a settlement, we were taught for most of this century.  Reinforced, as we drive past, and watch the tide ebb and flow in the now shallow Cove, inhabited only by a beautiful selection of water foul.

An attempt was made to draw our attention to the area, by filling in the marshlands, and building not only the 'pyramids', but also examples of the early cottages on the top of the rise, not far from the ruins of  'Restdown'.   Excursions by school groups became a regular part of 'history lessons'.   Were members of the general community any better informed?    One would question this.  

They continued to pass by on an ever busier road, especially after the collapse of the Tasman Bridge.   The old bridge, near the settlement site, was protected from the ever increasing traffic, to the great relief of those who were aware of the historical importance of the structure, while most of the general public would have been unaware of the age.  Very little different to the bridges at Richmond and Ross.   The old Inn continues to stand 'sentinel' to the approach of the site, having served many purposes over the years.   Well past the first century in age, and fast approaching the second.   A second Inn, or Tavern, now stands close to the first, its purpose little different.         

Yes, we knew there was conflict between the Aboriginal Community and the Europeans who had come and taken over their island.   Yes, we knew 'muskets and cannons' were used against the 'attacking' men, women and children, with  'spears and stones', at Risdon Cove.   How many were 'attacking' the gardener, and the soldiers, who came to his rescue, had never been established, we were told.    How many Aboriginal men, women and children lost their lives on that day, has never been established either, to say nothing of those who were wounded, and carried scars for the rest of their lives.   The Tasmanian Aborigine was 'extinct', we were firmly convinced, though most knew there were folk of Aboriginal descent on some of the Bass Strait Islands.   To the utter surprise of most Tasmanians, the Government decided to 'return' Risdon Cove to the Aboriginal Community, in respect to the 'Massacre'. Most Tasmanians of European descent, are reluctant to pass beyond the gate at Risdon Cove these days, though a notice on the gate assures all are welcome.

 The research undertaken for publications such as "Risdon Cove - From the Dreamtime to Now", begin to uncover, not only the history of our Island State, but very importantly particular areas. In this case, not only Risdon Cove, Risdon Vale as well, an area few Tasmanians would have considered had any history before the building of Housing Department homes almost forty years ago.   

Risdon was not the only area little was known about.   Tasmanian history generally was not considered 'important', or rather was it 'not relevant' to the community in general, we were convinced.    It had been a convict settlement, we all knew, but of course, no respectable Tasmanian family had a convict in their past.   Hobart's history was hidden.   It was 1959 when our family found our first convict.   My Uncle never spoke to me again.    I never had the opportunity to tell him he lived with an Aboriginal family.    His brother-in-law was a descendant of Dolly Dalrymple.   Since my retirement in 1986, I have had time to follow my family back, and have found the most remarkable stories, not only of our family, but the Communities in which they lived.   

On the 20th February, 1974 a dinner was held to acknowledge the five-hundred and eight persons who left England with Lt. Governor Collins to establish the settlement of Sullivan Cove.    As a result of that Dinner, the Hobart Town (1804) First Settlers Association was formed, with more then five hundred members over the twenty-seven years, two hundred active members today.    Not only is the history of Hobart's '1804' families being 'uncovered' in great detail, but many other aspects of life in 'Early Tasmania'.   There is also great interest in those who lived or visited 'Van Diemen's Land', before the arrival of Lt. John Bowen and Lt. Colonel David Collins.   The bicentenary of the visit of Nicholas Baudin is fast approaching, and there is great interest from the local communities in the areas he described and the records he kept.

As the Bicentenary of the settlement at Risdon Cove approaches, it is hoped that more of this area will be known, especially of those who were with Lt. John Bowen, both bond and free, and those who followed.  

Both New South Wales, and Tasmania, were settled as a 'penal stations'.    For almost fifty years, to the day, convict transports sailed to Hobart Town, bringing over 74,000 prisoners to the shores of this island state.   A total of 63,000 men, including boys as young as nine years, and 11,000 women, with girls as young as nine.   Not all were British, not all were white, and certainly, not all were 'Church of England'.      Like any community today, they were a great mixture.    Some did well, others did not survive long enough to even arrive.    Those who became 'settlers' had mixed success, while there were those who just 'bolted for the bush'.    

On the 20th February, 1954, Queen Elizabeth unveiled a Monument to the 'First Settlers of Hobart Town', in Hunters Street, Sullivan Cove.    One wonders how many Tasmanian families knew they had an Ancestor with Lt. Gov. David Collins on the 20th February, 1804.   By 1974, many families did know, and so attended the Dinner.    My father's family was represented, that of William Richardson.    It was another fourteen years before we knew that my mother also had ancestors who came with Collins, James Lord and the Nichols family.    Her families were also well represented at the Dinner.

It is hoped on the 20th February, 2004, to have the names recorded on, or near to the Monument, so acknowledging those who were at 'The Derwent' in that first year of European settlement, including those who were at Risdon Cove with Lt. John Bowen.   Not only the names of those who had authority, in one way or another, but ALL the names, including , as my father would have called them, "just ordinary" people.    My father had spent almost all his 91 years, in and around Hobart, a carrier for more than fifty of those years.    His convict heritage did not worry him at all.    He knew his grandfather, he said, the son of the convict.    He knew my mother's family, "They were just ordinary too."  

"Just ordinary", we may well call them, but for some there needs to be a much better description.   It is becoming very difficult to identify several members of Bowen's party, 'the servants', no doubt.   Convicts sent to attend members of Bowen's party, and those who were to see to the menial tasks, almost 200 years ago.   Especially the 'three female convicts'.   Bowen listed '10 female convicts' in his first return, corrected to '3 female convicts' a few weeks later.    It would appear the 'free women' had been included.    However there was one young woman with the party whose story has been well told, and we can be certain the story of her family will continue for many years to come.      

The story of Martha Hayes is no doubt the best recorded of those from Bowen's settlement, who remained after his departure, for yes, some did remain.    As a teenager, young Martha had taken the eye of Lieutenant John Bowen on the voyage out to Port Jackson, on the transport HMS Glatton.    Martha was with her mother Mary Hayes, who had been convicted of a crime, and transported on the Glatton.   Her father eventually gaining permission to join the family, sailing on the Ocean, as a 'free settler'.    Although there are few personal details for those in Bowen's party, it would seem that Martha came down to Risdon Cove with Lt. Bowen, in September, 1803, and was eventually joined by her parents on the return of Bowen to the settlement, March, 1804.    There are many entries for the family of Henry and Mary Hayes over the years, in the diary of the Reverend Robert Knopwood, including the three daughters of Martha Hayes.   Two to the young Lieutenant Bowen, and a third to Andrew Whitehead, whom Martha married in 1811, one of the Calcutta convicts, who arrived in Hobart Town in February, 1804.   John Bowen made certain Martha and the two girls were well provided for, on a well established farm on the western side of the river, not far from the present Zinc Works, before leaving the settlement in August, 1804.   There are many descendants from the two surviving daughters, and no doubt their family story will be told in detail before the Bicentenary of Risdon Cove.  

To find the names of convicts who have been assigned to settlers is very difficult, to find the name of a female convict, almost impossible.    One could imagine that Martha Hayes would have had the services of both a male and a female 'servant', after the departure of Lt. Bowen.   As Bowen prepared for his departure from Risdon Cove, there are two names on the Victualling list for transfer to the party of Lt. Governor Collins, for April, 1804 but were not victualled by Collins till the 22 May, 1804.   They were Mary Lawler and John Jackson.    Were these the 'servants' of Martha Hayes?    We may never know, as few if any papers remain for early Hobart Town.

However there was one convict with Lt. Bowen for whom there are many reports, official as well as newspaper.    That was Dennis McCarty, or as sometimes written, 'McCarthy', an Irish rebel.    He is included in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 2, among some of Australia's leading men and women.   A convicted farmer from Wexford in Ireland, he arrived in Sydney in 1800 on the Friendship.   He was one of the many Irish Rebels transported at that time.   James Meehan , the Surveyor was another, who also spent time at Risdon Cove surveying, as well as in Hobart Town.  'Transportation' certainly did not cure Denis McCarty of his 'rebellious' tendencies, and for 'disobedience' he was included in Lt. John Bowen's party to Risdon Cove, in September, 1803.    What part McCarty played in the Risdon Cove settlement does not seem to have been recorded, but he must have been of some 'use' to Bowen, and considered worth leaving with Collins, for he was victualled from the 2nd June, 1804, on Collins return for 1804.   He certainly became one of the best known characters in early Van Diemen's Land, especially in the New Norfolk area, where he was one of the earliest settlers.   He became Constable of New Norfolk in April, 1808.  He married Mary Wainwright in December, 1811, who had been born on Norfolk Island, daughter of the First Fleeter Hester Wainwright.    No doubt he is best known for the building of the road from Hobart to New Norfolk.   A large boulder with a plaque, stands as a monument to the Irish exile, on the bank of the River Derwent.   

Farming and road building were not his only interests.    Exploring must also be added to this list.    He became owner and master of the Geordy, a comparatively small vessel, but one he took not only to the south of the island, but also as far as Port Jackson.   He took the brig Sophia to Macquarie Harbour, went to Kangaroo Island on the Henietta Packet, with Captain Feen as master.    From Knopwood's diary and other reports, it seems that Denis McCarty was at Port Davey before the very well known Captain James Kelly in the whale boat, Elizabeth,on behalf of the 'trader and ex-surgeon' Thomas W.Birch.   The little vessel was owned by James Gordon Esq. , another who played an important part in early Vandemonian history, including that of Risdon Cove.    The story of Denis McCarty will be told many times over the next few years, as the bicentenary of Risdon Cove is acknowledged, through to the naming of New Norfolk in 2008.  

From the Rev. Knopwood's diary, we know that Captain James Kelly was at 'The Derwent' on the day of the 'massacre', for the Rev. Knopwood recorded that both men heard the firing of the cannon.  

As we are reminded in this publication, Risdon Cove did not cease to exist after Lieutenant Bowen left.   Another community began to develop.    T.W.Birch is named, as is William L'Anson.   Lt. Colonel David Collins had taken over the responsibility of Risdon Cove, after the departure of Lt. John Bowen, granting areas to settlers for farming.   The original intention of the area, we are reminded.  William L'Anson was granted some of the land, which he sold to T.W.Birch.   By 1812, we learn the area had been purchased by Colonel Andrew Geils, the new Commandant, who had 'trouble with his neighbour', George Guest.

'Tasmanian families are like a seamless web' the historian Lloyd Robson, once said, 'they keep on going round and round.'   The history of Risdon Cove certainly confirms this.   

William L'Anson, or  I'Anson, was the senior surgeon with Lt. Governor Collins.   Like so many of the Officers, his time in Van Diemen's Land was short, he died in 1812, his land going to Thomas Birch after his death, it would appear.   Little is known of the Senior Surgeon.   No family recorded for him, but one could hope some time was allowed for him to go to his 'holiday house'.   For it seems, as with New Norfolk, the more affluent members of Hobart's community escaped from Hobart Town to a more restful part of the island.  "Restdown" well describing Risdon Cove, very different to the penal 'Camp' at Sullivan Cove.   The Royal Hobart Hospital still stands on the original hospital site, almost two hundred years later.    What changes since the first three surgeons arrived.  

Lloyd Robson, in his 'History of Tasmania', describes Thomas William Birch as a 'merchant and trader' particularly involved with 'wheat'.   Immediately the connection is made, for that was the important crop John Bowen was to plant as soon as he arrived.    The wheat was doing well, we would imagine.   No doubt Birch's father-in-law, George Guest was growing wheat on his 300 acres, granted to him on his arrival from Norfolk Island.   The farmers were becoming established at Risdon, in conjunction with the holiday resort.   'Restdown', a week-end retreat for Sarah Guest Birch and her growing family.   Thomas Birch and Sarah Guest were married in Hobart in September, 1808, only the twenty-third marriage for the Rev. Knopwood.   The new house in Macquarie Street, would have been well under way, if not already completed when 'Restdown' became the property of Major Geils.   Eventually George Guest's property became part of  'Restdown'.

James Gordon Esq.  as 'agent' became responsible for 'Restdown'.   Another army officer, James Gordon became a Magistrate, and there are many reports of the various cases he resided at, including the robbery at 'Restdown'.              

Like William L'Anson, Major Andrew Geils,  as 'interim officer in charge at the Derwent', after the death of Governor Collins,  no doubt used 'Restdown' as a retreat from official duties, spending his working time at 'Government House', on the site of the present Town Hall.   With the brick extensions, it would seem that 'Restdown' had become a very comfortable house indeed.   Perhaps also very essential to the well being of the 'interim officer in charge', for Governor Macquarie  had left a long list of instructions and 'matters to be seen to', on his departure.   James Meehan was again at 'The Derwent', this time to survey the rapidly growing Hobart Town.   Governor Macquarie had also stayed a night at New Norfolk, or at Elizabeth Town, as he called it, with Denis McCarty.   It is hard for us to imagine such things.   With a convicted 'Irish Rebel'!   Then Macquarie had great respect for Meehan as a surveyor.   The earliest years at the Derwent must have been a fascinating social mix.  

Risdon Cove was anything but deserted, and the story of  'Restdown' is an on going tale for a century and a half.

Major Geils had returned to Sydney, and the property was to be 'let'.   There may have been a great deal of trouble with the 'tenants', but it seems the property was producing well, not only wheat, with orchards becoming well established.   Thomas Kent is not a name listed in the early musters, unless it was Thomas Kenton, an ex-convict, who was the early  tenant.   By 1820 Alfred Thrupp and his wife Sarah, were living at 'Restdown'.   As would be expected in the still small community of Van Diemen's Land, the Thrupps would have been well known to many of their neighbours, especially  Sarah Birch and her father, for Sarah Thrupp was the daughter of Captain John Piper, Commandant on Norfolk Island for some time.    Her sister, also born on Norfolk Island, was the wife of David Gibson, another who had come with Governor Collins, very successful in the north of the state.        

There are many sayings in our society, which describe many situations, for the earliest community at Risdon, through to the present day.    "Life was not meant to be easy."    It certainly was not for those responsible for 'Restdown', as it had become known.   "Times don't change, only the players."   The Thrupps were no more acceptable as tenants, as had been Thomas Kent, it would seem, especially after the robbery.   Alfred Thrupp had sold some bullocks at a very worthwhile price, was passed around the district.   A group of young men decided to rob him of his takings, Joseph Potaski  as leader.   Joseph was the brother of Catherine Potaski, the baby born aboard the 'Ocean' as she lay at anchor at Risdon Cove, while Governor Collins, and some of the other officers, decided on the suitability of the site for the settlement.   John Potaski, or more correctly Ivan Potaski, as the family now know, rather than a Russian speaking Pole, had been an officer in the Russian Army.    He became another of the 308 'Calcutta Convicts', and very useful as an interpreter, when Russian ships were visiting.  

There is a very detailed report of the robbery given by those who attended the trial, the result of which four of the five young men involved were hung, including Joseph Potaski.   Alfred Thrupp was away at the time of the robbery, and the young men must have left few personal possessions, belonging to Sarah and the children.   It is fascinating to read the list of goods taken, for there were many items of clothing, for all the family, including young children.   There were also 'papers', which were taken out of Potaski's 'breast', looked over and put into the fire.    That 'documentary evidence' so important today.   Geil's papers, relevant to Guest's grants, it would seem.   Some of the participants in the robbery were from the 'road maker's hut', near the Hollow Tree (Cambridge) at Break Neck Hill.   Very close to the 'Horse Shoe Inn', though the old steep road is seldom used today.    There seems there was another group of young men, with the same intentions as young Potaski and his 'mates'.    Perhaps the 'fortunate ones', for they escaped at least with their lives. 

From the reports, it would seem that John Potaski was leasing some of the property belonging to Geils, though still living on his original property at Kangaroo Point, now Warrane.   The original grant of 30 acres, the 1819 Land and stock muster shows.    While Alfred Thrupp was 'Agent for Geils', in 1819, no one was living on the property, which consisted of 1815 acres, 80 acres in wheat, 23 acres in barley, 3 acres in beans, 4 acres in potatoes, and 1705 acres in pasture, with 800 sheep.   Very surprising indeed.   Alfred, Sarah and three children, with seven government male servants, (convicts), and one female convict servant, were living on the 300 acre property granted to Alfred Thrupp at Clarence Plains.  With 300 cattle pastured.    It is not surprising Major Geils decided to sell, and the property was put in the hands of George Cartwright , Solicitor.    Another very interesting person in early Hobart, his family still able to be contacted today.   Did the action Geils take against his agent, include Alfred Thrupp?   Very possibly, for I have usually associated Alfred and his family with Brighton, where his brother Henry, had 1,200 acres of land.   Alfred and Sarah eventually moved into 'Kimberley', the lovely old stone cottage at the top of the hill at Pontville, where they both died and are buried in the old cemetery on the other side of the Church.          

As the sale to T.G.Gregson took place in 1829, it would be reasonable to assume the auction of Geil's belongings took place not long before.    Not only was the building obviously well built, but must also have been beautifully furnished, if neglected.   Dr. Tippling in her book 'Convicts Unbound' describes the auction as 'a great social event'.    After twenty-five years in the colony, many of those who had come with Lt. Gov. Collins were well established and financially comfortable.    Their list of purchases a good indication of their success.   Thomas Peters spent almost fifty pounds at the auction, eleven guineas spent on seven cedar cane-bottom chairs.   The 'guilded china teaset' cost him a further nine pounds.   There were other items of interest to the community, such as saddles, bridles and farm equipment.   Andrew Whitehead  purchased drawer locks and cupboard locks.   It would seem that Major Geils' records survived better that those of Governor Collins, even if some were burned by the young 'robbers'.                    

 It would be interesting to know if Andrew Whitehead took his wife and daughter with him to the sale.   Surely Martha  would have been most interested in the house, part of which she once shared with John Bowen.  

Already the house in which Bowen and Martha Hayes lived had changed hands several times.    Surely a 'government house' when first erected.   'Granted'  to William l'Anson, 'sold' to Thomas Birch, 'purchased' by Colonel Geils, 'rented' by Thomas Kent, and Alfred Thrupp was the 'live in' agent in May 1820 when the group of young men attacked the property.   The on-going story of the Potaskis is well recorded by the family.  Joseph Potaski was executed on the 19 May, 1821, his father died on the 29th August, 1824 only one month after the marriage of his daughter.    The family eventually moved to Geelong, the two ladies living well into 'old age'.   There are numerous descendants today, for the 'baby born at Risdon Cove on the 18th February, 1804'.   

Thomas William Birch married Sarah Guest daughter of George Guest on the 12th September, 1808.    George Guest had come from Norfolk Island, one of the earliest to accept the request to move to 'The Derwent'.   He was granted 24 acres of land, book 1, number 18, in the locality of 'Derwent', frequently described from the site of the City Hall up Campbell Street.   A further grant was made to him of 300 acres at Risdon Cove.    Again, book 1, number 32.   From these numbers, there is little doubt the Risdon Cove grant was 'compensation' for the move from Norfolk Island, even though the 'grant papers' were tossed into the fire the night of the robbery.   Here again the family will have the details, for there are many descendants.    

Thomas Birch died in Hobart in 1821 aged only 47.   Sarah remarried, and she, with her second husband, John Cox, turned the "largest and most imposing house in Hobart Town" into the well known Macquarie Hotel.   The very distinctive house can be seen in many of the early paintings of Hobart, and is still there, though very different in appearance to the earliest days.    It is on the corner of Macquarie Street and Victoria Street.   The roof line of the original house can be seen above the additions, now used as office accommodation.            

Restdown continued to be a problem for Major Geils, till George Cartwright was given the task of selling the property.    With the arrival of such men as George Cartwright in Hobart Town, there seems to have been a change in the Military rule of the various communities, to Civil one more familiar to the population today.    The number of convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land was continuing to rise rapidly, while 'free settlers' were being encouraged to settle in the various areas, with 'land grants' the reward for their efforts, and the investment of their money.   Men such as Gregson.        

Thomas George Gregson, a very interesting member of a changing community, bought the property in 1829, and no doubt continued to live there till his death in 1874.    He was a farmer, from Lowlynn, in Northumberland, England.   He was married with three sons and four daughters.   He was interested in horse racing and politics, while his property extended to Kangaroo Point.   The Reverend Robert Knopwood once more visited Risdon Cove, as he had done in the earliest weeks of settlement at 'The Derwent'.   On Trinity Sunday, 1829 the now aging Chaplain took Devine Service and administered baptism at the home of T.G.Gregson.   On his 'old pony, which is 26 years old and admired by all' he entered for the 17th August.   He did not go out at night, he wrote, and if it was necessary, he made sure he was home by 8 o'clock.   The original settlers were ageing.   The Rev. Robert Knopwood died on the 18 September, 1838, with him were his three special friends, George Stokell, Thomas Gregson and Father Connolly.        

Thomas Gregson was a 'farmer', and a 'politician', and not only did 'Restdown'  prosper over the thirty-five years he was there, but the area owned increased greatly, while the make up of the community was changing.   Transportation has ceased, twenty years before the death of Thomas Gregson in January, 1874, few still 'serving time'.   Catherine Potaski was enjoying life in the thriving city of Geelong, Victoria, while Martha Hayes Whitehead Williamson died at Brown's River in May, 1871, aged 85.    What changes these people must have seen, and with their going, the 'books' were closed, for the greater part of a century.   Let us hope that by "2324" the bicentennial years of so much history, they will be well open.    "Risdon Cove - from the dreamtime to now"  only one of many books telling of Hobart's Hidden History and the other areas settled in those early days.

Perhaps it is appropriate to finish these comments with a little oral history.  It was probably 1984 when I read my Grade 1/2 class at Flagstaff Gully a story of a space ship landing 'back in time'.    One child wondered what was on the school site before the school was built.   No one had any idea.   The Principal suggested a small group go down to the Clarence Council Chambers and see if anyone could tell them.  A group was chosen and the task was undertaken.  We came back with pieces of an old map.   There was not a photocopier large enough to copy the map in one piece, so we were given several pieces to tape together.   I still have copies of the section showing the school site, but regret not having taken care of the other pieces, and filed them safely away.   We found that the property had belonged to T.G.Gregson, and extended from Risdon Cove to Kangaroo Creek, Warrane, and included Flagstaff Gully.   With Geilston Bay, of course, named from the previous owner, Major Geils.   The site of the School had been an apricot and quince orchard.   The children were quite familiar with apricots, but no one knew what a quince was like.   The search began to find some fruit to show the children.   Eventually a large old tree was found at no other place than Risdon Cove.   In the garden of the old Inn, the 'Saracen Head'.   The old tree still there today, I am always thankful to note.   An excursion was arranged for the children to go to Risdon Cove, and they would not only look at the old tree, but go to the site of Mr. Gregson's house.   At that time little more than a pile of rubble.   I would hope that at least some of the children remember that very enjoyable day, for I certainly do, and have continued to have a particular interest in the man who owned so much land from Risdon to Bellerive.

Freda Moorhouse-Gray,
2 Kadina Road,
Cambridge, 7170





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