A Tour of Old Tasmania

Walk Old Tasmania

$20.00 per book plus $6.00 postage and packing

Tours of this wondrous isle of contrasts, rich with marvellous reminders of the glories and the horrors of colonial days, are presented in this unique volume, which should accompany every visitor to Tasmania, and also locals who want to learn about the past in an entertaining way.

Author Michael Tatlow, broadcaster Charles Wooley and historian Peter Mercer, with special maps and 200 pictures old and new, take you around their home island on tours of a week or so, a few weeks or on the Grand Tour of a month or more.     Launch in November 2008 !


Did you know?

  • Execution by hanging was so rampant in Old Hobart that the gallows at the old jail could drop up to 13 convicts at a time.
  • It seems that Australia’s first ‘legal’ casino, with gamblers flocking from other States, was operated by colonial Chinese tin miners in North East Tasmania.
  • Adventurers from Launceston in 1835 first settled in, and founded, Melbourne. And a Launceston man, your authors show, designed the flag of Australia.

Book extracts

Devonport River punt“A fresh breeze sweeping up the Mersey from the sea carries a salty tang on a September afternoon in 1863. In this snapshot of that day, imagine that you are at the little wharf at Torquay, where the Spirit of Tasmania berths today.

“You have crossed the Mersey on the punt ferry for the price of one penny to watch the loading of the little schooner Cousins. Her deck is crowded with timber, cloth, spring vegetables and beef and mutton in casks of brine for hungry and gold-rich Victoria. Four men in tattered clothing are feverishly loading a rowing skiff near you with picks and shovels, pans, home-made sieves and muskets.

“Why go for gold at Bendigo?” one says to a trim young lady, a farmer’s wife of your acquaintance, sitting at the front of the dray. “There’s rich minerals, gold or silver up the river in the never never.” He takes a bite of chewing tobacco. “We’re going to be rich men, ma’am, rich!”

Deloraine Bridge“Imagine you are watching the ducks in a light mist on the Meander across West Parade [Deloraine] on a sunny Saturday morning in the winter of 1855. A gang of sullen, chained convicts directed by three redcoats with muskets has just passed by, carting a load of sandstone blocks.
“A horn’s piercing tarantara bouncing off the river announces the bustling arrival of Ernest Ayton’s Tally Ho! stagecoach from Launceston. Excited patrons pour from John Bonney’s coaching inn behind you and Bonney’s new Deloraine Hotel next door as four chestnut and black highsteppers clatter the coach across the timber bridge over the river and turn right towards you.

“The driver in a scarlet jacket stops the dusty black coach. The odour of sweat wafts from the horses. ‘You got the mail?’ a woman from the hotel asks. ‘Indeed, ma’am!’ he replies. ‘The royal mail. And there’s tobaccy and rum and the latest papers with the news of the world. What’s left of it, that is. Escaped convicts on horseback bailed us up at gunpoint in the forest five miles out’.”

Eaglehawk Neck“Notorious Eaglehawk Neck, which connects mainland Tasmania with the rugged and infamous Tasman Peninsula, teems with tales of the colonial convict days.

“Governor Arthur chose the peninsula for his main penal settlement because it was an isolated virtual island with handy access by sea from Hobart Town. Convicts were told the waters around here were thick with sharks, ready to eat escapers who tried to swim to freedom. So their only land passage to liberty was by Eaglehawk Neck. To discourage this, a row of kennels was installed ... At every kennel was a fierce dog... Day and night nearby were soldiers with muskets. However, some convicts, in daring and even hilarious ways, made it ...”

Nellie Melba Rail“The grand old Gaiety Theatre in the [Zeehan] town centre can seat 1,000. Miners loaded with money attracted world entertainment celebrities to the Gaiety. Performers included American escapologist Harry Houdini, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso and in 1924, nearly everyone around bragged to us, our world famous songbird Dame Nellie Melba.

We asked at the Pioneer’s Museum to see photographs of Dame Nellie’s big night in town. None was available, though. How odd, your diligent authors thought. We snooped about… A traitorous local eventually whispered the awful truth… The story of Dame Nellie Melba packing out the Gaiety is an astonishing hoax that, until this book, has fooled even Zeehan residents.

“Nellie loved a drop of the doings. After a concert in Burnie, she got drunk. Hung over next morning, the diva dame was in no condition to make the train trip to a gutted Zeehan. West Coast Mayor, Darryl Gerrity, laughingly confirmed this. “It’s high time the old hoax was exposed.”

ox wagon, Tatlows beach, The Nut“A cold easterly, howling around The Nut [at Stanley] was driving waves with sickening thuds against the foundered barque Wild Wave on the morning of Monday, June 5, 1923. The square rigger was washed on to the town end of Tatlows Beach the night before.

“Many of Stanley’s residents waded out to the foundering craft and formed a human chain in the dark waves for hours to help ashore all the crew of 10 who had been swept overboard ... An anguished Captain Nicholson, other exhausted survivors and residents including children freed from school because of the disaster, were still at the beach watching the ship break up.

“Gulls, blackbirds and sparrows were feasting on sodden barley mounded along the high-water line… The quiet crowd on the beach was joined by a lady, Miss Amy, leading a gaggle of 11 pet geese and Godfrey the gander. The flock suddenly ran from their mistress, honking and flapping wings, scattering the other birds, as they attacked the barley.”

This snapshot in A Tour of Old Tasmania, with a photo of Wild Wave on the beach, tells how the geese got drunk, presumed dead, and woke with their feathers plucked.