2016 Lecture Podcasts

These podcasts were recorded and prepared by Ian Terry. The lecture summaries are reproduced by courtesy of THRA's minutes secretary Professor Michael Roe.


Assoc. Professor Hamish Maxwell-STEWART

accounts for Capital offending...



Dr Maxwell-Stuartfirst spoke of the overall investigation into convict lives being pursued by the team to which he belonged. Its research comprehended a vast range of documentary materials, enabling rare opportunity for learning of common-people experience.  Convict descendants would receive notice, especially through twentieth-century military records. A particularly important find were holdings by the State Library of New South Wales of records of savings’ bank accounts held by Tasmanian convicts. These underlay tonight’s presentation.

Male convicts received payment for work they did while in hulks preparatory to transportation. Inthe early years of colonial settlement many, male and female, worked at least part-time for wages. The Solomon brothers, to take an outstanding example, were able to build a financial empire while still under bond. With the greater harshness of ‘the system’ following the Bigge reports this flexibility diminished.  However some convicts continued to arrive with money in hand and from the late 1820s this came under control, first being deposited with the Commissariat, later the Derwent Bank. Ticket-of-leave men and even some assignees earned wages, and these too could go into bank accounts; after the probation system was introduced in 1843 the number of wage earners, and consequently deposits, increased; bank-interest rates were high, perhaps financed by capital accruing from the death of depositors. So some convicts anticipated Samuel Smiles’s doctrine of thrifty self-help. This was not ‘the system’s’ only benevolent aspect: convicts lived longer than soldiers; health on transports was better than on Atlantic passenger vessels.

            Some 13% of male convicts deposited money on arrival in Tasmania, and 9.3% of women; the former averaged nineteen shillings, the latter thirteen. Scots were above the average, Irish below; older people outranked younger ones.

            In turning to other data garnered by the project, Doctor Maxwell-Stewart first remarked that analysis had indicated that broadly convicts told the truth about their personal lives prior to transportation. Literacy varied much according to occupation—although not even all professed ‘clerks’ could write.  Still, they and skilled workers ranked high on this scale, agricultural workers low; the more literate were more likely to deposit money on arrival, although agricultural workers—perhaps recipients of  largesse from their employers—bucked that trend. Among women, prostitutes were more affluent than most and yet more markedly healthier.

            The proportion of workers in government employee as against private assignment showed overall increase, with fluctuations—one possible determining factor being that at time free labor cost less than it did to maintain a convict. This pattern in turn co-related with the death rate, since  return to institutions meant exposure to disease (as barracks did for soldiers).

            Another punishment-related statistic is that convicts who came before magistrates were less likely to suffer a finewhen the bank-deposit system was in full operation. Maybe some magistrates believed that  miscreants should keep their money.

            Numerous questionsand comment included report of an ex-convict back in Britain claiming from the government payment of wages such as the applicant would have earned at the hulks through a period equivalent to his colonial term.

ASSOC. PROFESSOR stefan petrow


The Fighting Fortieth...



Dr Petrow began by emphasising that his concern tonight (and in the book that was under way) would be to explore the human dimension of the subject and so what their war experience told about Tasmanians. Some contemporary feeling suggested that Tasmanians might not prove equal to the challenge of war, and a continuing question was how far they fitted the heroic model of Australian soldier advanced by historian CEW Bean. In exploring relevant issues, Dr Petrow had researched widely, concentrating on letters and diaries written by Tasmanians. Tonight he was concentrating on the story of the 40th Battalion. The Battalion had its origins in the recruitment campaign mounted by Australian authorities late in 1915, Prime Minister WM Hughes himself visiting Tasmania in the cause early the next year. The response was not sufficient to providea battalion’s full number—it was to have about half Tasmanians, the remainder from Victoria—but Tasmanian identity was stressed, and the commanding officer was Tasmania’s JEC Lord. The epithet ‘Fighting Fortieth’ was adopted well before any ‘fighting’ came about; some resentment consequently prevailed especially among Tasmanians in the 12th Battalion, which had fought at Gallipoli. When the two groups later met in France, amity soon prevailed.

            The Battalion sailed on 2 July 1916, the first issue of its news-sheet, ‘Tassie Times’, insisting that these troops would uphold a proud Tasmanian heritage. Next followed months of ultra-tough  training at England’s Salisbury Plain. In late November came movement to the battle-field, at Armentières. Soon trench life transformed into horrors of ‘misery and muck’, the mortar an especially terrible weapon deployed by the enemy. Hatred of Germans had considerableplay, but there was some fellow-feeling too, this latter complementing other-ranks’ antipathy to their own officers. Messines was the Battalion’s first major, and fearful, battle; FC Green, historian of the battalion, believed that only a liar or moral pervert could find pleasure in fighting; many experienced moments of fear, but still the troops fought hard. Among heroes was George Cranswick, phenomenally equipped with martial qualities. John Monash was said to have praised the 40th’s role at Messines. In the months ahead the terrible task continued. One now to die was Norman Meagher, writer of many fine letters home; he had foreseen his fate, trusting in God and hoping that should death come, he would ‘go out game’. By later 1917 some depression-cum-disillusion prevailed; ‘if socialism could stop war’, one man remarked, ‘we should all be socialists’. Much more had yet to be endured. One positive event was grant of a Victoria Cross to Percy Statton; ‘the only good German was a dead German’, Statton was to say back home, ‘and I did my best to make them good’. At last peace came, and immediately Green set to writing his careful and sensitive history. Others gave their praise. Survivor Frank MacDonald, to live into his 108th year, ever proclaimed that the Battalion had achieved all its objectives and so justified the claim to be ‘The Fighting Fortieth’.

 At question time, Dr Petrow affirmed that MacDonald’s claim as to the Battalion’s achievement was essentially correct.   

Jai Patterson


the mid-19th century movement of middle- class Tasmanians to New Zealand 


Ms Paterson began by explaining that she had shaped her project as an extended family and social history, concerned to present her subjects’ voices, especially as to their motivations and experience. Her starting point had been the collection of letters (held in Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum) from one such emigrant, Eliza Adams to her Tasmanian friend Kate Clerke Weston. Born in 1845 Eliza migrated in 1865 to join her brother Charles, a surveyor, whose notebooks offered a rich supplement to Eliza’s letters. The Adams family had many contacts with the gentry class of northern Tasmania and Eliza’s letters referred to some 200 people in New Zealand with connections to this milieu, offering data which might delight family historians; Ms Paterson had prepared a hand-out listing Tasmanian names mentioned by Kate and offered copies to whomever might be interested.    One issue that confronted Tasmanians going to New Zealand was the legacy of convict transportation. New Zealanders characteristically identified Tasmania in these terms and were anxious to avoid any contamination, local newspapers especially emphatic as to this. When Martin Cash arrived in the 1860s he met a frosty reception, but in fact helped police identify other ex-Tasmanian convicts—as well as running a brothel. This anti-convictism was an obstacle that the respectable immigrants had to overcome, but many did so with success. Canny investors — William Kermode an outstanding example — had bought New Zealand land cheap in the 1850s, and profited thereby in the years ahead in a way that echoed what an earlier generation had achieved in Port Phillip. Often sons were sent to manage such investments. The discovery of gold in the Otago district in the 1860s offered further opportunity for astute businessmen and entrepreneurs. Particularly notable was the influx of lawyers trained in Tasmania—where supply of professionals in that field much exceeded opportunity. The three Pitt brothers offered a brilliant example: outstanding among them was Albert who became active in the Volunteer movement and in politics, leading the New Zealand contingent that went to London for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, and later heading a Royal Commission which pondered the possibility of New Zealand joining the Australian Commonwealth; it visited Tasmania but negated any such outcome.

            A sample of the Tasmanians cited by Eliza showed some 80% to be local-born, a striking figure. They were people of colonial experience, and so all the better suited to the New Zealand task. Many made return visits to Tasmania and it is very difficult to compute how many permanently settled across the Tasman. Eliza’s letters show her as a person of physical and moral strength. She was happy in New Zealand from the outset, ‘delighted with the place and people’, much appreciating hospitality given her. The support she gave her brother extended beyond domesticity to joining him on long horseback travels; he attained reputation as astronomer and mathematician, skills appropriate in a surveyor and deriving from his Campbell Town education. In due course Eliza married one Charles Powell, a fine man and their children prospered. Back in Tasmania four of her sisters remained unmarried, and the fifth (after marriage at forty) became a widow: all were buried together in Fingal cemetery. Eliza herself died in Wellington in 1930.    


eldershaw lecture




The Eldershaw Lecture is not summarised.





Mr Rieusset foreshadowed that he was to present a true murder mystery, of 1845 Van Diemen’s Land. Jane Saunders was born in London, 1827 of a working-class family suffering hard times. The family migrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1835, the father working as a carpenter before his early death. In late 1842 Elisha Hathaway was appointed American consul in Hobart, and Jane joined his Elboden-street household as a domestic. A fellow servant was Keo, a twelve-year-old Sandwich Islander having little English. In early January 1845 the family—including Jane—holidayed at the Derwent Inn, New Norfolk. Its licensee was William Elwin, a free migrant of 1833. His servants included Eliza Benwell, Thomas Gomm, William Taylor, and Isaac Lockwood, all of convict background.  Saturday 18 January was a busy day at the Inn, meals being served even at 11pm. Around then Jane’s absence had become noticed. A search began, continuing next morning. Suspicion soon fell on Gomm, Taylor, and Lockwood, with Keo indicating that Jane’s body might lie in the adjacent River Derwent. On Monday morning this was confirmed and the trio named above put into custody. An inquest began, but Keo’s deficient English delayed proceedings. After an interpreter arrived from Hobart proceedings resumed, and the jury found that death resulted from ill-treatment by Lockwood, with Gomm and Taylor accessories.  In March the three appeared before Justice Algernon Montagu, and after adjournment resumed in late April, but Keo’s linguistic problems forced further delays until July. The indictments were now more elaborate, and Montagu refused the accuseds’ request for counsel. Through a new interpreter Keo gave more circumstantial detail than before. Medical experts differed as to the cause of death. The trio made written statements affirming their innocence, Gomm now implicating Eliza Benwell, who duly gave evidence. Montagu’s summing-up stressed the importance of Keo’s evidence. After twenty minutes the jury returned a ‘guilty’ verdict, Montagu sentencing the three to be hanged and anatomized. The date set for execution was 9 September but on the 5th Benwell was brought to trial; this continued the next week, Montagu spending one whole day in his damning conclusion. The jury’s verdict was a qualified ‘guilty’, Montagu repeating his capital sentence. On Monday 15 September the three men repeated claims of innocence, going to the scaffold next day. The Executive Council pondered Eliza’s case, but ultimately endorsed her execution. In a final statement she implicated Lockwood; a huge and noisy crowd attended her execution on 30 September. Notable in subsequent public discussion of the case was Henry Melville’s critique of Keo’s evidence. Mr Rieusset endorsed and elaborated on this point, suggesting that Keo had been coached by police authorities. He, Rieusset, thought any one of the Derwent Inn’s male customers might have been responsible, including one named by Melville. Montagu, a man of little substance, might have been seeking to lift his ‘score’ of capital convictions.

After further discussion Ms Homer thanked the speaker for an enthralling address, and the meeting closed at 9:20pm      


characterises her


in an annual autobiography


The Tasmanian Life lecture is not recorded or minuted.







set up...



10 MAY

Mr Collins began by stressing the pertinent research most assiduously undertaken by his Bent kinswoman, Sally Bloomfield. His account began with the arrival at the Derwent of the Kangaroo, Charles Jeffreys captain, late April 1816. Aboard was a quantity of type, essential to Bent’s historic role, and also his future wife, Mary Kirk. There followed several festivities, the grandest hosted by Lieut-Governor Thomas Davey, two hundred years ago to this very day. Bent was baptised in London 24 October 1791; he had two younger brothers, the boys orphaned by 1805 and all to come to Australia as convicts. Andrew was ill-made, a Cockney in his accent and sense of (black) humour. He had trained as a printer, certainly on the Public Ledger and possibly on The Times. Tried in 1810 for burglary, his capital sentence was commuted to life servitude. After arrival in Sydney in 1812, Bent soon was removed to Hobart Town. Thomas Davey’s term as Lieutenant-Governor began in that year, his style appalling both NSW Governor Lachlan Macquarie and home authorities. A more immediate problem for Davey was Michael Howe’s resolute audacity. In response Davey declared martial law, and Bent’s first imprint, September 1815, presented a statement by settlers in support of this action. Davey sent other Bent imprints back to London, doubtless thereby seeking to create a favourable image of his governorship. On 11 May 1816 appeared the first issue of the Hobart Town Gazette; its role under Bent to be one marker of the changes fermented by the interplay of himself, Davey, Jeffreys, and Howe. Jeffreys’s dubious trading activities and disobeyal of orders had offended Macquarie, who blocked the seafarer’s efforts to publish an account of his (impressive) navigation through the Great Barrier Reef. Bent, grateful for Jeffreys’s supply of type, published a prototype edition of the Gazette, telling this story. In September ’16 came long-awaited news of Bent receiving a Conditional Pardon, and immediately afterwards he married Mary Kirk, the register declaring him ‘Free’. All the while Howe taunted Davey, even sending him a letter written in blood. Davey resigned at year’s end, the few documents he left behind including a recipe for a ‘cocktail of spirits’.

When William Sorell arrived in 1817 as successor Lieutenant- Governor he found Bent duly ‘humble’, but had a confrontation with Jeffreys, who nevertheless succeeded in landing a big cargo of alcoholic liquor. Then Jeffreys sailed away, carrying copies of various issues of the Gazette, including the prototype, which in time he circulated through the British press. Whereas Jeffreys made Bent’s work known in Britain, its local circulation even included Howe’s bushrangers. Bent was to publish what JA Ferguson has termed Australia’s ‘first work of general literature’, Michael Howe, the Last and Worst of the Bushrangers (1819). All his technical work showed remarkably high quality. Andrew and Mary had eleven children (and many latter-day descendants). Being a pew-holder at St David’s was one mark of achieving social respect. However George Arthur, Lieut-Governor from 1824, abhorred both assertive ex-convicts and newspaper criticism—Bent in the van—directed against his regime. Hence exploded controversy over freedom of the local press, Arthur failing to win such control as he wanted. Through to his death in 1851 Bent lived to Macquarie’s ideal of the redeemed convict, proving himself as good as any man. 

alison alexander



MAY Dr Alexander began by paying tribute to the late Marita Bardenhagen, with whom she had first discussed this subject. She then spoke of German immigration to earlier Tasmania. Von Stieglitz and von Bibra were names among the early ‘gentry’ while from the 1850s began more everyday migration, evoking generally positive response from the established community. These migrants generally struck permanent roots in the island. Various settlements became known as ‘German Town’. The best known was present-day Collinsvale, which in 1881 was formally named ‘Bismarck’. Others were a settlement close to St Mary’s, and Lilydale. The dominant theme was of effective assimilation, the Germans proving industrious and community-minded. Even as tensions mounted between Britain and Germany in the early twentieth century good relations prevailed. When war came in 1914 the Mercury expressed regret that these two nations should be enemies. Withal, tensions did rise, especially as alleged German atrocities were reported. Internment of German nationals got under way, some 63 persons thus suffering. As Ian Terry had recently told the Association, considerable feeling mounted against Fritz Noetling, who indeed behaved treasonably. Military authorities led anti-German activity. ‘Hate’ letters appeared in the press. Gustav Weindorfer suffered the same kind of ostracism as did Noetling, altogether without justification. However counter-forces always had their play, one notable spokesman for moderation being Premier (to April 1916) John Earle. Some anti-German sentiment was patently absurd. The Australian Natives Association in 1916 considered arguing for prohibition of marriage between Australians and ‘Germans’, but in the event resiled from this stance. Police were generally careful and moderate when enquiring into alleged German disloyalty. When one German protested that he was denied employment on account of his background, at once he received various job offers. Other Germans spoke in emphatic self- defence. Even extreme anti-German feeling never aspersed women. The renaming of Bismarck to Collinsvale resulted not so much from anti-German emotion but because British and Danish residents who had long disliked the former title now had excuse to push for change.

As the war continued, so did relevant tensions. Signifying this were 1918 episodes involving the Kalbfell family and Hobart butcher Charles Metz. But the protagonists in such cases generally belonged to three groups on society’s fringes: ‘nutters’; larrikin rowdies; and individuals moved by personal antagonism. As against this were continuing forces of moderation—the press and the judiciary to the fore. The overall story was not so grim as some commentators have suggested. Possibly Tasmanian experience was less fraught than that of the nation at large.

After numerous questions and comments, often involving familial experience, the meeting closed at 9:05pm.

Michael Hess 



APRIL Professor Hess began by explaining that his academic expertise was in business and labour history. His teaching in Launceston had prompted him to search for local case studies of small business. The extant record offered little, and so he sought an appropriate topic of research. An answer began with discovery that Birchalls’, situated in the city’s Brisbane street, claimed to have served the community since 1844. That was a remarkable span, most small businesses failing in the fairly short term. How then did Birchalls survive? The story ranged through three periods: up to 1900; the first half of the twentieth century; and thereafter. Throughout a dominant theme was continuity of ownership and control: the Birchall family produced many sons, several becoming managing directors, and then came transfer—without disruption--to the Tilleys.

The British world of the 1840s saw massive growth in literacy and readership. One London bookseller to ride that wave was Thomas Tegg. Two of his sons came to Tasmania, in 1844 Samuel establishing himself in Brisbane street, ever the town’s commercial hub; his wares including not only books, but stationery, sheet music, and perfumes. After Samuel returned to Britain in 1848 there followed eight years in which the business languished—but then JB Walch of Hobart took over, installing the young AW Birchall as manager. He became a partner in 1865 and sole owner some time in the ’80s. Four others of his family worked in the business. That it could sustain so many livelihoods reflected its part in Launceston’s mining-based boom of these days. Musical instruments and sporting equipment further diversified the shop’s range, while it facilitated the city’s broader culture. Andrew was a very active citizen, his death in 1893 evoking due response. Management passed first to Andrew’s son Harry, and after his early death to his brother Frank. Supply of books and stationery to schools became important around this time. On Frank’s death in 1907 his younger brother Jack, then aged 28, succeeded to leadership. He built up the sportsware side of the business, while maintaining ties with landed elites, and schoolteachers. While sometimes authoritarian, Jack allowed departmental managers to exercise initiative. New departments embraced art and fine china, a lending library of some 7000 volumes flourished, and ladies could relax in cosy reading rooms. So Birchalls’ became integral to Launceston’s self-image.

A federal Companies Act of 1921 prompted some managerial reorganisation, with a board of directors and distribution of shares. Jack initially affirmed that his authority would prevail unimpaired, but in the later 1920s this situation eroded as did the firm’s financial stability. Saving the situation was the 1928 move into the business of accountant Stanley Tilley. He and Jack reached an ‘agreement’ that, while never formally embodied, proved durable and effective. Anecdote tells that a badly-needed bank loan was secured in 1932 through the aid of JA Lyons, then Prime Minister but earlier one of those schoolteachers with whom Jack cultivated friendship. The following years saw recovery. Many Birchall family shareholders were interested more in dividends than management, giving greater leeway for Stan Tilley to become dominant. His sons Ray and Norman became involved and after their return from World War 2 became active managers and eventually owners of the bookstore. This seemed an appropriate point for ending the presentation.

After several questions, the Chairman thanked Professor Hess, and the meeting closed at 9:10pm. 









‘Lisdillon’ was the east-coast property of her father, John Mitchell, born in Cornwall in 1812 and coming to Van Diemen’s Land as a government surveyor in 1837; thereafter he served as an administrator at Point Puer before settling on the land, at ‘Lisdillon’ in the early 1850s. In 1839 John had married Catherine, his fiancée from Cornwall; the couple were to have ten children, several dying young and Sarah the second youngest. John Mitchell was an active citizen, encouraging migration and serving in the House of Assembly in the 1870s. Never marrying, and resident throughout her 92 years in the region of her birth, Sarah amassed a wonderful store of historic materials, now in the care of various repositories. In outlining this story the speaker displayed on screen many enriching images. Like her mother, Sarah had skill as an artist, sketching local scenes and events. More remarkably, virtually throughout her life she kept a diary, full of exact information. One highlight was the local visit of Governor Thomas Gore-Brown in 1866, and another the wreck of the Guiding Star in 1870, but plenty of everyday people also received mention. A near-by probation station and the local school were described in characteristic detail. Sarah’s scrap-books included many verses, and expressions of religious faith. She spoke of her meeting with Truganini—the sole Aboriginal she knew; John Mitchell prompted Truganini to make a traditional basket (half-a-crown the reward), Sarah subsequently donating this remarkable artefact to the Queen Victoria Museum. Other collected objects were a geranium leaf said to be from Napoleon’s tomb, and the first telegram sent to ‘Lisdillon’. In 1900 Sarah travelled to Europe, maintaining her diary and her sketching through this eighteen-months’ sojourn; in 1934 she crossed Bass Strait—by air! In her latter years she moved into Swansea, at the end dictating her diary. Death came in Hobart, 10 September 1946.

Ms Ferris concluded by drawing attention to the recent publication, under the auspices of the East Coast Museum, of a single volume edition of Louis Ann Meredith’s Bush Friends in Tasmania. Enthusiastic applause endorsed the President’s thanks for a most interesting presentation, and the meeting closed at 9 o’clock. 



bernard lloyd






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Heading photograph XXXXXXXX, courtesy Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office