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Chapter VII. [1851.]

TASMAN'S PENINSULA—EAGLE HAWK NECK—TASMAN'S ARCH—HUMAN RAILWAY—A PREDICAMENT—PORT ARTHUR—A DONJON IN GALA DRESS—COMPULSORY LABOUR—SOLITARY CONFINEMENT—OLD AND NEW SYSTEMS—FINE TIMBER—STATE PRISONERS—THE COAL MINES—A CLEVER ESCAPE—MALE PENITENTIARY—LUXURIOUS ROGUES—JOURNEY TO LAUNCESTON—THE ROAD AND THE RAIL—TOPOGRAPHICAL JUMBLE.

January 10th.—HOBART TOWN.—If the reader will consult the map of Van Diemen's Land he will find that Tasman's Peninsula is a kind of ear-ring hanging at the left ear or south-east extremity of the island, and forming the eastern horn of Storm Bay, the estuary of the Derwent. The pendent is divided into two parts. The uppermost, or most northern,—known as Forestier's Peninsula,—is attached to the mainland by a very narrow isthmus called East Bay Neck; the lower half, or Tasman's Peninsula, is joined to Forestier's Peninsula by a similar isthmus called Eagle Hawk Neck. Tasman's Peninsula, being surrounded by the sea on every point except at this narrow, natural causeway, is singularly well adapted for the restriction and coercion of prisoners.




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Port Arthur, the chief settlement, is situated in a fine bay of that name opening to the south, and running inland in a northerly direction so far as to leave only five miles of land between its own head and that of Norfolk Bay, which bounds the peninsula on the north. Round the shores of Norfolk Bay are situated three probation stations—the Cascades, Saltwater River, and Impression Bay; and the Coal-mines is a station for convicts under magisterial sentences. At Eagle Hawk Neck—the key to Tasman's Peninsula—is stationed a military detachment, strengthened by a chain of dogs, to bar all egress and ingress.

The Lieut.-Governor having obligingly put at the disposal of my companions and myself the small steamer Kangaroo, we got under weigh at five A.M. this morning from Sulliven's Cove, and were soon paddling down the Derwent. We passed swiftly by the Iron Pot, round which the surf was appropriately boiling; Betsy's Island on the left, the property of a lady, as the name imports, and where there is said to be “great store” of rabbits; and Slopen Island on our right, where the quail are preserved for the Governor and his friends, and where he who can hold his gun straight may kill forty or fifty couple of these little flying fatlings. Rounding Long Point, the north-east extremity of Tasman's Peninsula, we entered Norfolk Bay about half-past ten o'clock. On our left we had the pretty wooded Garden Island lying in the jaws of the Bay. To our right, on a high arm


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of the peninsula, a black patch of cleared land, with some tall Lancashire-like chimneys, showed where the coal mines are worked by prisoners, under the management of a company who rent them from the Government and have the advantage of penal labour.

We passed Saltwater River, where a band of lunatic convicts are employed in agriculture under proper surveillance; then Impression Bay, where some 600 invalids are stationed, and are given such work as suits their strength, while about 100 hale prisoners do the hardest of the labour; next, the Cascades, a probation station for about 300 men,—all of which stations are situated on the shore of a hilly and wooded country; and finally, about mid-day, our little craft running up the narrow inlet of Eagle Hawk Bay, we soon after moored off the long wooden wharf of the military post of that name. This post, by reason of its somewhat unique feature,—a line of canine sentries,—is one of the lions of Van Diemen's Land. On either shore of the inlet running up to the station there is a chain of huts, each containing a constable and his dog, to prevent the escape of run-aways by swimming this arm of the sea,—a desperate measure, since the fugitive fortunate enough to evade the tipstaff and the mastiff would have to battle the watch with an outlying picquet of sharks, abounding in these waters. It was related to me that, on one occasion, four prisoners, good swimmers, led by a notorious black named Jacky, attempted to cross from a headland called


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Sympathy Point to Woody Island, and thence to Forestier's Peninsula. The Englishmen—perhaps because their fair skins acted like whitebait for the sharks—were one and all seized and devoured by these tigers of the deep; the native made good his landing, but was afterwards retaken.

No sooner came we in sight of the low, sandy, scrub-grown isthmus which cuts across the head of the inlet, than our ears were saluted by the loud baying of the deep-mouthed dogs, and as we walked up the pier towards the guard-room at the end of it, they all joined in a grand chorus, including three or four videttes stationed on little platforms laid on piles in the water.

The opposite shores of the two peninsulas are lofty, sloping away into uplands covered with fine timber. The soldiers' barracks and the officers' quarter, a rural cottage with a pretty garden, are placed with their backs against the declivity of Forestier's Peninsula, commanding the neck, which is not more than 200 yards long by 60 yards wide. Two loaded sentries are posted on the narrowest part of the neck, the one on the ocean side of it—in Pirate's Cove—the other on the inlet side of it. The dogs, each chained to a post with a barrel for a kennel and a lamp to illumine his night watch, connect their two biped fellow sentinels, and complete the cordon.

My sketch, which I took seated on a sand hummock looking towards Tasman's Peninsula, will save me further


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description. The dogs by no means relished having their pictures taken — throwing themselves into a thousand minacious postures, with which Landseer would have been charmed. They were generally of a large rough breed, mongrels of the most promiscuous derivation, but powerful and ferocious. One of the family, who was permitted to range at large, amused himself sometimes, and kept his teeth and temper in practice, by rushing into the shallows and fighting with the sharks; and he not unfrequently succeeded in dragging them ashore. There are fourteen dogs “on the chain” at present.

The Eagle Hawk Neck and its vicinity are exceedingly picturesque; and the young subaltern and his pretty wife appear to be quite satisfied with their sequestered quarters and their canine society. I doubt even whether the half-dozen of champagne that I dropped at their door added a whit to their cheerfulness. The fair lady, whom a few years ago I had known as a child, undertook to guide our party on a visit to two natural curiosities on the coast of Pirate's Cove—Tasman's Arch and the Blow-hole. It was a long and fatiguing walk for the two ladies of the party, and so high was the fern and brushwood in some places, that it was fortunate we had secured the services of three or four soldiers with tomahawks to clear a path for us.

The Blow-hole, so called from the loud sough of the waves as they dash with hollow roar from the ocean into


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a horizontal tunnel pierced through the cliff, and opening inland into a gravelly pit, is more curious than grand. But Tasman's Arch is one of the finest fantasies of nature I ever met with. It is said to have been first discovered by a hunter who, in full pursuit of a kangaroo, narrowly escaped the fate of Quintus Curtius without its glory. And, indeed, so difficult to find is the spot, and so suddenly does the seeker stumble upon it, that he is not a little startled, on pushing his way through some light bushes, to find his foot on the brink of a yawning chasm or well, fifty or sixty feet across, descending into the bowels of the earth—its eastern side, at about 30 feet from the surface-ground, forming a majestic arch of rock some 200 feet deep, the entrance to a subterrene passage, through which the surf from the open sea comes thundering into this abyss in the midst, as it were, of the forest. In high tides and tempestuous weather the spray is shot up high into the air through this gigantic tube.

Seating ourselves on the sward near the mouth of the punch-bowl, we partook of a modest repast of bread and wine, and, being refreshed, we retraced our steps through forest, and fern, and sand, and rock, our walk having extended over ten or twelve miles under a burning sun—to the Neck.

At 6 P.M. we re-embarked, pursued by the ululations of the dogs, in the little Kangaroo, and piped to dinner as she paddled down Eagle Hawk Bay. Passing Woody


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Island and Sympathy Point—the scene of the fatal swim above mentioned—we came to an anchorage for the night just after dusk, off a small station—nameless as far as I know—at the head of Norfolk Bay, where, there being no accommodation, we slept on board.

A commissary officer, who resides here in all the solitude permitted him by a wife and six children, came off and kindly undertook to arrange for our passage to Port Arthur in the morning, by railway. “By railway!” exclaims the reader, “a railway at the Antipodes.” Yes, by railway; not propelled by steam however, but by human thews and sinews, and in the sweat of the human brow.

January 11th.—At 7 A.M. we landed on a rough pier of timber, upon which the rail, or rather the wooden tram-way, abuts; and in the middle of the dreary little settlement, which consists of the Commissary's quarters and a few huts, we found a couple of low trucks on four wheels, with two benches in each, and, standing near these not elegant vehicles, eight convicts dressed in the grey and yellow garb of doubly dyed disgrace and crime; another, in grey unvariegated, was in attendance as head man of the gang. These were to be our teams. Dividing ourselves into two parties, Dr. and Mrs.——, and I, got into one, and two tolerably weighty gentlemen into the other. Upon this, the prisoners seized certain bars crossing the front and back of the carriages, and, after pushing them with great toil


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up a considerable plane, reached the top of a long descent, when, getting up their steam, down they rattled at tremendous speed—tremendous, at least, to lady-like nerves—the chains round their ankles chinking and clanking as they trotted along; and as soon as the carriages in their headlong race down the hill exceeded the possible speed of that slowest of all animals, man, at a word from their leader the runners jumped upon the sides of the trucks in rather unpleasant proximity with the passengers, and away we all went, bondsmen and freemen, jolting and swaying in a manner that smacked somewhat too much of “the d—l take the hindmost”—although a man sitting behind contrived, more or less, to lock a wheel with a wooden crow-bar when the descent became so rapid as to call for remonstrance. Accidents have not unfrequently occurred when travellers by this rail have encouraged, or not forbidden, the men to abandon the trucks to their own momentum down the hills; for there are several sharpish turns in the line, and the tram-way is of the rudest construction. Occasionally, perhaps, these capsizes have not been purely accidental when travellers obnoxious to the motive powers have fallen into their hands.

One of the highest public officers of the colony—a gentleman popular with all classes, and whose personal qualities it would be impossible to estimate lightly!—met, as I was told, with a tremendous upset on this railway. Rolling, without much damage, into the ditch,


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he was picked up, “teres atque rotundus,” by the “canary birds,” who placed him upon his legs, and amid a thousand expressions of contrition, set to work to brush the dirt off his clothes; and so officious were they, that, on his first reference to his pockets neither watch nor purse were to be found.

Half-way we halted at a police-station,—not to take in water for the engines, but to grease the wheels and to breathe the men,—and then proceeded with renewed vigour. The distance from our starting-point in Norfolk Bay to Long Bay, an arm of Port Arthur, by the railway, may be five or six miles. It is sometimes performed in half-an-hour; but to-day, having a nervous passenger, the men did not put forth their best speed.

The tram-way, alongside of which there is a bridleroad, lays through a forest-tract of the most splendid timber, wholly wild and uncleared, the largest trees being the blue-gum for which the island is famous,—so called, I suppose, because the leaf has much of the colour of the bloom on the Orleans-plum. Our mode of travelling through this fine forest was not precisely such as to add to our enjoyment of the scene. Indeed, it jarred most distressingly on my feelings. Our poor beasts of burthen at the end of the traject seemed terribly jaded, running down with sweat, and I saw one of them continually trying to shift his irons from a galled spot on his ankle. Returning by this same route in the afternoon, we were requested by the head man to halt a


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few minutes for the men to get something to eat. The overseer told us that these men had breakfasted at four in the morning, at Norfolk Bay, had run up the trucks with half a ton of rations to Long Bay, and had returned to Norfolk Bay for our party by half-past six. They had had nothing to eat since breakfast—exactly twelve hours.

To rid myself at once of this unpleasing subject,—a railway worked by white slave-power—I will here finish my notes of the return-trip by this route, although it is somewhat out of its turn:—

After our visit to Port Arthur,—of which more presently—on landing at the Long Bay terminus, where there stands a miserable shieling, we found there the Governor and his party, sheltering themselves from a heavy shower of rain. Carriages being required for them, one truck only remained for our party. The three gentlemen, all being well wet through, walked on at a brisk pace, and myself was left in charge of the lady. Some delay occurred at starting. The first mile was up a steep ascent, but we had with some difficulty accomplished it owing to the slippery state of the road, and were trotting briskly along a flat, when a distant “cooey” from the rear was heard, and looking back I saw a fifth prisoner in grey-and-yellow running up—a tall ugly fellow that I had not seen before. Our team immediately pulled up, and then the idea flashed across my mind, dismissed almost as soon as entertained, that


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some treachery was intended. Here was a lady and one unarmed man in the midst of the wild Bush, and completely in the power of five perhaps as desperate ruffians as ever cheated the hangman!

The gentlemen who had preceded us were long beyond sight and hearing, and we were full two miles from the station we had quitted. It afterwards proved that the questionable predicament in which we had been left had crossed their minds very much as it had done mine. The truth is, however, that we ran less risk of robbery or violence in this unpeopled wilderness, with our lives in the hands of this villainous gang, than might have been the case within the sound of Bow-bells. In Tasman's Peninsula detection and punishment follow crime as sure as night follows day.

The men employed on this tram-way, which is more used for the transport of stores and provisions than for passengers, are under sentence of hard labour, and those who are young and active enough to go the pace prefer it to other task-work—chiefly, I suspect, because many passengers, in flagrant breach of the convict-rules, bestow some small reward on the wretched dragsmen, whereby they are enabled to procure tobacco—the grand desideratum of all prisoners, and other trifling luxuries, the value of which a man never fully knows until they are unattainable.

But to resume our visit to Port Arthur.—At eight o'clock we reached the terminus at the head of Long


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Bay, an inlet of Port Arthur running up into the forest between high shores. The distance by water to the settlement of Port Arthur is about four miles. We found at the terminus a large whale-boat awaiting us, manned by prisoners, the strokesman being one of the finest negroes I ever saw. We soon opened the port, and, sweeping round a rocky headland on our right, the penal township lay before us.

Port Arthur is the head-quarters, both military and convict, of the peninsula. There are at present about 350 prisoners here, and the garrison consists of a captain and seventy grenadiers of the 99th. His subaltern, as has been seen, is detached to Eagle Hawk Neck. The other stations on the peninsula before mentioned are at present controlled entirely by the civil power, an arrangement more consonant with British custom, and more just to the army, than the former system of scattering small detachments under non-commissioned officers among the various minor stations and stockades—thereby compelling the soldier to do the duty of the constable.

I had made up my mind to find in Port Arthur all the gloomy attributes of a huge donjon. I expected, and I believe wished, to see the features of nature and the institutions of man frowning in grim and dreary concert on the spot expressly selected for the punishment of Britain's blackest malefactors—one half of whom, perhaps, ere the criminal law of England was amended


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(or diluted,) would have paid the penalties of their misdeeds on the scaffold. There is, however, in fact, nothing of the Bastile in the aspect of the town of Port Arthur—nothing of the desert-wastes where the felons of other nations are condemned to linger out their hopeless lives.

A magnificent harbour lay before us, with a spacious open channel to the ocean. On the east was a fine range of mountains, terminating at the coast in a high bluff, called Arthur's Seat: on the west a quiet bay, sheltered from the sea by a long arm of land named Point Puer, where stands the abandoned settlement of the Parkhurst boys, the spacious buildings,—like many another costly edifice in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, constructed for penal experiments,—on the road to ruin. In a retired cove of this bay, with a tolerable space of level land around it and a fine wooded range in its rear, lies, sloping down to the beach, the settlement. The first object that attracts the eye is a handsome stone church with a tall cheerful-looking steeple embosomed in fine trees, and a beautiful public garden below it. On the opposite extremity of the town is the residence of the Commandant, an excellent house, also well sheltered with ornamental trees and surrounded with a blooming flower garden and orchard, and a lawn sloping down to the sea. It possesses a grand stone balustrated entrance, a sculptured stone gateway and such like features—sufficiently proving that it was never


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intended for the quarters of a military officer! No, no—the officers' quarters stand humbly just without the gates of the premises I have described, and I recognised them at once by the rigid restriction of the style to bare habitableness. Fortunately for the Brevet-Major at present in command here—and especially so as he happens to be a married man—the post of Civil Commandant has, for economical reasons, been done away with, and he is, therefore, permitted to reside in the better house.

The architect entrusted with the design and erection of the public buildings of the settlement must have been of a cheery and playful mind. Hospitals, barracks, gaols, cooking houses, stores—every edifice, in short, except the old original convict dépôt, which is an ugly wooden stockade, are of a fine light-coloured stone, with a profusion of little turrets, castellated copings, sham machicolations and pie-crust battlements, reminding me more of an Isle of Wight villa than of a convict probation station. There is a commissariat building, nearly as extensive and as ornate in style as Somerset House, and which would easily contain all the commissariat stores in the South Sea colonies. A picturesque feature of the town is the flag-staff and signal-post, erected on a tall dead tree of enormous bulk, standing alone on a high mound. It consists of two platforms, reached by a ladder stair. From the upper one there is a most extensive and lovely view. With a fine blue sky overhead, and


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the blue sea below, the dark green hills around, and a climate quite perfect, Port Arthur has certainly nothing very repulsive in its aspect. The French prisoners of war had a somewhat more melancholy location on Dartmoor. The miners of snowy and sandy Siberia have a destiny somewhat more desolate. The poor charcoal burner on the gloomy and spirit-haunted Hartz, and the wretched turf-cutter on the Bog of Allen, toiling in solitary misery for a scanty subsistence, would imagine they had dropped into Paradise, could they be suddenly transported—by any but judicial means!—into this beautiful corner of the universe.

The gallant Commandant gave us an excellent breakfast; after which we proceeded to visit some of the lions, living and inanimate, of the place. We saw the cooking and baking for the prisoners; and better bread and meat, and more savoury broth was never served up at an English yeoman's table; half as good never to that of the English labourer on Sundays, nor to the Irish cotter twice a-year. We walked through the prisoners' refectory at their dinner-hour. They were sitting quietly at their tables, while one of each dozen divided the food into shares. The savour of the viands was really appetizing. I was told—whether in joke or in earnest may be doubted—that, if I waited until the meal was over, I should see a waiter going round with pipes and tobacco for such of the guests who desired a whiff of the Virginian weed.




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I have heard or read that persons subjected to the mental and bodily discipline consequent upon imprisonment combined with hard labour, require more nourishment than any other class of consumers. I have no hesitation in saying—and I examined them narrowly—that the prisoners of Hobart Town and Tasman's Peninsula, as a body, presented an appearance of stronger physical health than the soldiers stationed there. It is true that the former are debarred indulgence in those excesses whereby the soldier may damage his constitution; but when I see a lot of burly fellows, not only muscular of limb and body, but absolutely running to jowl, common sense tells me that neither the mind nor the body are much overtaxed. Indeed, I have no doubt that, however vigilant and severe the superintendence, it is impossible to compel a man to work without pay sufficiently hard to fatigue his frame—much less to injure his health—by any rigour of discipline short of that of the negro slave-driver. The treadmill appears to be the only species of laboratory where the operative must work, and work hard, or inflict self-punishment. He may, indeed, doggedly resolve to mount no higher on the rotary stair, but then his shins must suffer for it! All the machinery for this punishment exists on a large scale at Port Arthur; but I was told that it had been discontinued, because the wheel required too many hands, or rather, too many feet, to make it pay. I cannot help thinking, nevertheless, that it might have


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been advantageously employed in reducing some of the “too solid flesh” on the ribs of the Peninsula prisoners,—product of the good beef and bread, oatmeal and potatoes, of Tasmania.

And this brings me to the Hospital,—a fine building, almost untenanted. Of the 340 convicts on the morning state of this day only five were in hospital; out of seventy soldiers, three. In one of the larger wards, almost alone, lay one of the Irish state prisoners, O'Donohue,—one of the three gentlemen of that class who, having broken their tickets-of-leave by paying a clandestine visit to their late chief, Mr. S. O'Brien, were apprehended and sentenced, not only to forfeit their tickets, but to imprisonment with hard labour in probation gangs on the Peninsula. Patrick O'Donohue was lying on his iron pallet in the common ward, and in the ordinary blue flannel hospital dress. He was reading, and, as he seemed to be in bodily suffering, a feeling of commiseration was stealing over me, when it was quickly dissolved by a whisper from the surgeon that his malady arose from two or three broken ribs, the consequence of a fight with another prisoner. When on ticket of leave, he employed himself in the editorship of a newspaper called the Exile.

My fate seemed to constrain me to follow in Van Diemen's Land the fortunes of Mr. Smith O'Brien. At Maria Island there was his shadow; at New Norfolk his substance. At Port Arthur I was dragged away to


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inspect the premises that had been allotted to him after he had attempted his escape from the island. The house—a decent little tenement, superior to the building intended for the officers' quarters—stands in the corner of a largish garden, enclosed within a high wall, with its back against that of the barracks—over which, by a stair ladder, the sentry in charge of the prisoner came to his post. The soldier's beat was at first close to the house; but the prisoner was so prone to converse with his military guardian from his verandah, that the post was established further off. Smith O'Brien appears to have taken considerable pleasure in gardening; and flowers which he had sowed were now in full bloom. He was very uneasy and irritable under the constant eye-shot of the sentinel; and, indeed, I cannot imagine anything more annoying to a person of excitable temperament and fond of privacy, than continual supervision.

We visited an admirable edifice nearly finished at vast expense for the prosecution of the solitary and silent system. There are long galleries of “separate apartments,” as they are delicately termed; court-yards where the prisoners are brought out one by one to take their exercise under the eye of a constable; and a chapel so fitted up that each man will—like a prebend or a horse, have a stall for himself, so constructed that he can see no one but the parson and the constables. The prisoners not in solitary confinement are marched to church, and have large pews or rather pens for their accommodation.




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The aristocracy of Port Arthur consists of the commandant, the visiting magistrate, the chaplain, the priest, and the surgeon. These gentlemen have all pretty cottages surrounded with gardens near the church.

The penal system must by this time approach perfection as near as human wisdom can bring it—for Heaven knows that statesmen, local rulers, philanthropists and disciplinarians, whether of the severe or soothing sort—have left nothing unsaid, undone, or untried, to make transportation conducive to the three great ends, punishment, amendment, and prevention. I think, however, that, in a comparison between the old system and the new, designating them broadly as the assignment and the probation systems—the suffrages of the colonists, whether in Australia or Tasmania, if collected, would give a majority to the abandoned plan. The present or probation scheme has for its main features the blending correction with instruction moral and religious, a careful classification of the prisoners, rigorously enforced hard labour, and solitary confinement under unblinking surveillance, for the hardened and refractory; with the lash, Norfolk Island and the gibbet for the utterly irreclaimable. On the other hand, milder treatment for mitigated criminals, and for the well-conducted the certain prospect of the pass, the ticket, and the still larger boon of conditional pardon, after periods of servitude graduated according to the sentences and conduct under sentence. The instruction of previously ignorant men in the first elements of education, in useful trades, and in religious


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exercises, gives them at least a reasonable chance of returning to society better and more useful members of the human family than they were at the time of their banishment from it. According to the present scheme, the prisoner at no period is compelled to work without payment, except while his own bad conduct past or present restricts him to the Government establishments. On the first relaxation of his bonds he comes into the labour-market on pretty nearly equal terms with the free labourer. A late memorandum of the Comptroller-General of convicts establishes an uniform rule for the issue of tickets-of-leave.note




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My desire to obtain a sketch of the really picturesque harbour and settlement of Port Arthur prevented my seeing as much of the establishments as the few hours of our stay there might otherwise have permitted. I think my reader will admit that however heart-rending the punishment of banishment must be, (although ninety out of a hundred delinquents who suffer it lament only the opportunities of villany whereof it deprives them;) and however strict the supervision, severe the coercion, and arduous the labour imposed on the inmates; (and burning bricks, splitting wood, cutting stone, felling and carrying spars, quarrying and coal mining, or even trotting away at the rate of six or seven miles an hour with a cargo of “swells,” without wages—are no light pastime;) it will be admitted, I say, that there is nothing penally repulsive in the external aspect of Port Arthur, as it appears on paper.

I have anticipated my account of our tram-way return to Norfolk Bay; where, well drenched with rain, we regained our little steamer, and forthwith set off for the Cascades Settlement, which we reached at 4 P.M. At this place about 400 convicts are stationed, most of them being employed in felling timber, of which there is an endless supply of the largest size and finest quality near at hand.

Alongside the wharf a fine brig, the Vigilant, was loading with spars and planks for England—including some splendid specimens of blue gum for the Admiralty.


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The longest plank on board was 94 feet in length, 4 inches thick, and 16 inches wide. There were three or four spars upwards of 70 feet long by 2 feet thick. Some lying under water ready for use were, I was told, upwards of 100 feet long. I saw also in the hold of the brig some immense logs of “light wood,” à non lucendo, darker than mahogany; and knots of the beautiful Huon pine, finer than bird's-eye maple for ornamental furniture. One delicate slice of a giant tree weighed a matter of eight tons. But these are mere splinters to the plank of blue gum which, I hear, has been sent Home for the Great Exhibition. This was 145 feet long, 20 inches broad, and 6 inches deep. The first limb of the tree from which it was sawn sprung at 186 feet from the ground, and its extreme height was no less than 275 feet.

At a convenient distance for an afternoon's ride from Hobart Town, is to be seen a living gum-tree which is 60 feet round at 15 feet from its base, and 270 feet high, although it has lost its top. It is fenced in and treated with proper respect. A vessel's keel 100 feet long was lately laid down in one piece by a Hobart Town builder.

Among the convicts on board the Vigilant, at this moment lounging about unemployed, a fine manly looking individual was pointed out to me as the state prisoner Terence Bellew M'Manus, who, with O'Donohue and O'Doherty—Kevin Izod O'Doherty! (babes so


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named are baptized rebels to Anglo-Saxon rule!) have been “classed” for hard labour parties by colonial sentence for having violated the conditions of their tickets by visiting O'Brien at New Norfolk. One of these gentlemen I left in hospital at Port Arthur, the other is devoting his energies, innocuously to others and profitably to himself, in “splitting shingles” on one of the Peninsula stations. And Mr. M'Manus, at the Cascades, seemed to be taking just as much muscular exercise and wholesome food as would be likely to produce the vigorous health he evidently enjoys, and which enabled him to undergo the fatigues of the mysterious escape which, in a month after I saw him, he made to California.

Of the other two or three Irish political prisoners I saw nothing, but I heard that one of them was hoeing potatoes, a national pastime, hard by; and that another had got married by the Governor's consent. None of these gentlemen, I will answer for it, are in the position ascribed to them by a local and malcontent newspaper—“treated like trebly convicted felons, and condemned to wear the yellow garb of the degraded, because they visited the table of Mr. W. S. O'Brien!”

On the point of costume I can be both positive and correct with regard to Mr. M'Manus. He wore a full suit of grey dittos, with a leathern forage cap; and on his back, well able to bear the burthen, appeared in


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large white letters, the words, “Cascades, No. 200.” None of these criminals have been compelled to don the canary's plumage; although, for being foolish enough to run their heads into the lion's mouth, they really do deserve to “wear the motley.” For any future impatients aiming at the overthrow of the British constitution, I should prescribe—if I were Governor—a month's steaming on the Port Arthur railway—at Midsummer! I have heard that these gentlemen have conducted themselves in an exemplary manner under the colonial aggravation of their punishment. I was well pleased to learn that a great portion of it had been remitted; and shall unfeignedly rejoice at any further mitigation that imperial clemency or their own good behaviour may bring them.

Towards another prisoner, of a totally different class, located at the “Cascades,” my feelings were very far from being so placable. Amongst a party of three or four men in the grey dress and leather cap to whom was allotted the task of carrying and arranging on board firewood for the engines of the Kangaroo, I remarked a very tall and powerful figure standing on the pier, and for more than half-an-hour, with the measured accuracy of clockwork, handing the split logs from a heap ashore to another convict who stowed them on board. This was Robert Pate, the cowardly and, I am constrained to believe, the lunatic assailant of a woman and a Queen. Degradation, flogging at the cart's tail, would have been


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the suitable punishment; and I believe its infliction for such a “misdemeanour!” was by a late enactment made peremptory. I am not aware whether humane consideration for the feelings of his family, or for the infirm state of his own mind, saved this man from the enforcement of the cat and the cart's-tail. I was sorry, I must say, to see him in such fine health. With perfect bodily sanity I believe a man can never be very unhappy; or rather if a man be truly unhappy in mind, he can hardly possess perfect physical health. The perpetrator of such an outrage I would willingly have seen miserable—his soul sinking under the poignancy of remorse, and under the recollection of his dastardly action; his body macerated by the hardships of his punishment. Robert Pate is, as I understand from those who have him under constant observation, perfectly sane in mind at this moment. The faculty must forgive me if I express my conviction that he is still mad. Nor could a better asylum nor a better chance of eventual cure than the salubrious climate and diet of Tasman's Peninsula, and the present well-watched system of probation, be possibly afforded to this wretched offender.

Some of our party, while the steamer was wooding, visited a spot called the Fern-tree Valley, about two miles from the station, which they described as singularly beautiful. They walked through arcades and cloisters, arched over and darkened by the foliage of this graceful plant, and brought me back a single frond


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as a specimen nearly fourteen feet in length. The stem of this species, although as large round as a bandbox, is of a cellular texture, something between cork and sponge. Lumps of it, I observed, were in use among the shipping as fenders. It is filled with a beautiful brown fibre, as fine as spun glass. The sassafras grows in plenty near the same spot.

At 8 P.M. the steamer touched at the “Coal-mines” for a supply of that mineral. The Peninsula coal is an anthracite; all that I saw burning in the city was of that nature; but I am told that there exists very superior bituminous coal in the country, as yet unworked. Getting coal is considered the most irksome and arduous branch of convict labour. The station here, like most others in Van Diemen's Land, was, until lately, kept in subjection by a military guard. A married officer was in command for some time, and, such was the character of the populus virorum around him, that the females of his family could not move out without an escort of armed soldiers. Pan Demons' Land would be almost too mild a name for a region where such a state of things existed!

Steaming all night, the Kangaroo reached Hobart Town at three o'clock in the morning. It must be admitted that, pleasant as had been our trip to Tasman's Peninsula, this little vessel, for many reasons, was but ill suited to night accommodation. To the impossibility of sleeping, however, I owe the following narrative, from


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the officer of the watch, of a clever escape of a party of convicts, conducted, I am sorry to say, at the expense of my excellent friend, the Bishop of the diocese. His lordship possessed, in 1848, as he does now, a small yacht, which he employed for the public service, at least as much as for his own pleasure. With the intention of a somewhat protracted trip, he had ordered stores and provisions to be put on board; and she was lying at the town wharf ready for the Right Reverend owner's embarkation on the following day. Close along-side of her was moored the Kangaroo steamer, whose steward, a convict, formerly a Causand smuggler, and, as may be guessed, a sharpish fellow, admiring her breadth of beam, her clean run, and other qualities, conceived the idea of making her subservient, although only measuring ten tons, to a trip to California. The necessary stores—thanks to the forethought of the Bishop—were, as has been said, already on board. There was beef and biscuit in plenty, of fresh water but a small supply; but that might be added to. Mr. Hill, the steward, was quite willing to be her commander; all that was wanted was a crew. Three good hands, anxious to exchange the land of irons for that of gold, and volunteers for the dangerous experiment, were readily found among the prisoners. The land breeze and the elements at large, as they often do, favoured an unrighteous cause. An hour before midnight the little craft slipped away from the midst of a dozen companions at the wharf head, and


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was safe out of port long before daylight. An experienced caterer as well as navigator, the steward quickly calculated that the stock already laid in was insufficient for a two or three months' voyage. He therefore touched at one of the islands in Bass's Straits, whence having reinforced his lockers, he made a fresh departure, and, in short, the Bishop's yacht was, in due course of time, recognised at San Francisco by some persons trading there from Hobart Town. Nothing more was heard of her enterprising borrowers, who probably disposed of her before they betook themselves to the diggings. I believe, however, that Mr. Hill sent a polite message to his Lordship, apologising for the robbery, but urging the stern necessity of the case.

January 12th.—This afternoon, (my last in the capital of Van Diemen's Land,) having dined early, I devoted to visiting the Male Penitentiary, at an hour—seven P.M.—when the tenants were sure to be at home on a Sunday. This establishment is built of solid stone, with a formidable wall surrounding it, and is situated within the city. My friend and myself were most civilly received by the governor of the goal, who straightway conducted us to the mess-room, where the prisoners were attending an evening lecture by the catechist of the prison. This officer, standing in a high reading-desk, and selecting a subject from Scripture, (the life of our Saviour was that under present consideration,)—mingled his discourse with questions addressed generally to his


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hearers; nor did he fail to meet a prompt and intelligent reply, sometimes from two or more respondents. All were quiet and apparently attentive; but the answers came from but few. A hymn was sung also in good time and tune, but the performers were, likewise, a select few.

The worst class of men, in their piebald dress, were separated from those in pepper-and-salt, (who are for hire by private individuals;) and these again were separated from a more juvenile class, the Parkhurst lads. There are usually from 700 to 1,000 men in this prison. A fine range of solitary cells has just been erected. The greatest care is observed in the classification of the offenders, in order to prevent the contamination of the bad by the worse. The labour, too, is apportioned by a scale elaborately kept, whereby the age, physical powers, and health of each person, as computed by the medical attendant, are taken into account.

At the conclusion of the lecture the prisoners marched through a line of constables to their sleeping-rooms. These are built to accommodate about thirty men in two tiers of berths,—a better arrangement than the old dormitories of 3 or 400 persons; but still I think not sufficiently subdivided. There are lamps burning all night in each room; and a watchman with list slippers, having charge of a certain set of rooms, creeps about the landing-places, maintaining order and decency under heavy penalties. The wretched gaol birds had all gone to roost


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in their respective nests when I looked into some of the rooms. Under former and more lax systems, as I was informed, the short period between turning in and falling asleep was employed, and perhaps lengthened, by the men in the most villanous, disgusting, and blasphemous conversation.

No dormitory of nuns—placid votaries of celibacy and religion—could have been more silent and tranquil than the night cells of these branded outcasts. And how is this managed? I really hardly knew whether to burst into a fit of laughter or to view with admiration and approval the scene which was enacting in each sleeping-room. A large tin oil lamp supplied the chamber with light. Seated on the top of a step-ladder under the lamp was a man, one of the prisoners, book in hand, reading aloud—reading, in short, those very luxurious rogues, whose heads on their pillows were turned towards the lector, to sleep!

In conning over the comforts which might be secured by wealth,—a common practice with poor men,—among which a band of musicians, a swimming-bath in my dressing-room, and a huge riding-school for rainy weather found place, a domestic functionary whose duty it would be to read to me after retiring to bed, as long as I could listen, had in very luxurious moments been enumerated! The good substantial raiment, the plentiful meals, the flue-warmed rooms, the medical help, gratuitously supplied to the convicted thief, contrast in themselves but


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too glaringly with the hard-earned livelihood of the honest labourer. But what would John Hodge think, if, in addition to the above advantages supplied to him by an indulgent landlord, he were to be furnished with an attendant—the parish clerk, for instance—for the purpose of droning him off to sleep? Poor hard-worked Hodge would not need such an auxiliary to Somnus. He would snore (as some of the prisoners did on this occasion) before the reader had time to put on his spectacles! The prison readers are of course selected from among the best educated men. The lecture continues from eight to nine o'clock, and is credited to the performers as so much hard labour. On Sundays serious books are allotted for these nocturnal lectures; on week days subjects of information and amusement afford a lighter lullaby, probably less rapid in its operation. During the hour or two I passed in this penitentiary, such was the perfect order and silence observed, that I did not hear a word spoken except by the officers and attendants. It may fairly be styled a model prison.

January 13th.—A Mr. Page, proprietor of a daily stage-coach, running between Hobart Town and Launceston, advertises in the public prints the handsome offer of “A bed, a glass of old Tom, a cup of coffee, and an outside place—120 miles—for 5s.” However great the temptation held out by this announcement, my friend Dr. S——and myself, going on the principle that new brooms sweep clean, resolved to patronise an opposition


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coach lately set up—and in so doing we did wrong, for it proved to be slower than the “old original.” The opposition advertisement betokened a less liberal spirit, as well as a more distrustful appreciation of the character of Tasmanian travellers—perhaps a deeper knowledge of the world, or of that portion of it to which it mainly referred. It runs thus:—“Inside, 1l.; outside, cash 5s.; credit, 15s., and that only to responsible parties!

The plan adopted for the return to New South Wales of my companion and myself was to go by the stage to Launceston, the northern port of Van Diemen's Land—thereby enjoying a flying view of the interior of the island; and at Launceston to take the Shamrock steamer, which plies once a month, via Port Phillip, to Sydney, and back. There is no direct steam communication as yet between Sydney and Hobart Town. Our kind friends at the last-named city had procured for us invitations from families residing at convenient distances on the road side—thereby enabling us to see, in a pleasant manner, a little of Tasmanian country life, and to break the length of the journey. The great road from the capital to Launceston is the main artery of the island, passing through the best part of it from south to north. The stage-coach travelling in Van Diemen's Land is the theme of praise of all strangers returning thence; and, indeed, this particular drive, and the manner in which it is performed, are matters really enjoyable to a traveller


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who remembers the palmy days of coaching in the Old Country, and who has witnessed with regret the decline and fall of that pleasant mode of transit through a fine country. I believe most of my cotemporaries will agree with me in the opinion, that few things were more agreeable than a seat on the box of a really well-appointed coach, beside a driver fond of his profession, for forty or fifty miles, at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour, through some of the rural districts of England in the harvest season. I shall grow sentimental if I permit myself to recal the delights of “the road” as it was fifteen or twenty years ago. There was something highly enjoyable, too, I thought, in the ringing of the horn and the rattling of the wheels as you dashed over the stones of a country town, turning the corners at a swinging trot, stared at by the townsfolk, and then driving under an archway into an old-fashioned inn, where you were made comfortable for the night, or sent forward, after a hearty meal, with a fresh team and renewed spirits. Yes, I confess, this suited my old-fashioned tastes better than the modern rail. Whisk! you go through a forest of chimneys, steeples, gables, garret-windows, and tom-cat-frequented roof-gutters—and across a street which looks, by night, like a flash of lightning passing under you. The town is traversed ere you have time to recollect and recognise it as your native town. You approach a pretty village on a hill near it, and you have barely leisure to congratulate yourself that


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you will catch a glimpse of Uncle Anthony's house, and the Rev. Dr. Birch's seminary—your earliest school—when, presto! the train whips into a tunnel like a rabbit with a terrier at its scut, and your uncle's cellar and the doctor's playground are left fifty feet over your head! Three minutes more, and you are in the next county!

The journey through Van Diemen's Land reminded me faintly, and but faintly, of bygone days. The road itself is perfect. The London and Bath, or Brighton roads, in their best days, were not better. The scenery is picturesque, although some parts of the country are extremely sterile. The pace too is equal to the fastest “Age,” “Defiance,” or “Regulator,” that ever “kept good time” on an English turnpike road. The horses are of a better stamp and more of the old English cut than any bred in the other Australasian colonies. Much time is lost at the several stages, and yet the distance of 120 miles is done in twelve hours. On a fine bright, yet breezy day, we found the journey very pleasant. Generally at a hand-gallop, we passed through a great variety of country,—wide-spread tracts of cultivation neatly enclosed, but with only middling crops of grain, standing or in process of being mowed; neat and cozy homesteads, proving the competence of the farmer; gardens and orchards and hop-grounds; hedges of sweet-brier embalming the air, and of course plenty of wild woodland, besides hopeless-looking plains, apparently


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deserted by animated and vegetative nature. The carriage was crowded with passengers—half-a-dozen more than allowed by licence—hanging on like bees, sitting edgeways, on each other's knees and on the luggage; the guard now clinging by a lamp-iron, now on the step with his arm in at the window, now enjoying half-rations of sitting room on the foot-board of the box.

Even in England the days of Gentlemen-Jehus are gone by,—the days of the Stevensons, and the Cottons, and the Brackenburys. In this colony there are no gentlemen stage-drivers, as may well be supposed. Our coachman, however, I am bound to say, was a pleasant fellow enough when drawn out: “but I like to keep myself to myself,” said he, “when I don't know my company;” and in Van Diemen's Land such a resolve was unquestionably a prudent one. His costume was pretty correct, even to the nosegay, and he had the gout, which was in excellent keeping; but the harness was dirty, and the horses ill put together and driven with as much noise as a team of six or seven hairy-heeled diligence horses in Normandy. Moreover, “coachee” handled a regular Smithfield pig-whip, instead of the neat taper holly stick by “Crowther,” with its thin thong fine enough towards the point for a trout line. But he made his nags move, and kept them moving! In 1835 the stage took two days to do this journey, and the charge was 5l. inside, 4l. outside; now it is twelve hours, 1l. in and 5s. outside.




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At twelve miles from the city we crossed the Derwent by a causeway and bridge, nearly a mile in length—a considerable work. A cluster of ruined huts indicates where the muscle came from, and a great slice out of a rocky hill where the material was found for the formation of this fine piece of convict workmanship. The first town we came to was Brighton, and soon after, strange to say, we reached Bagdad. Beyond that Persian city our route took us over Constitution Hill, and, having crossed the Jordan, we very appropriately came to Jericho,—a straggling village. Jerusalem we left some miles on our right; and the river Styx, which, however, we did not cross, has by some means found its way into this Van Demonian Palestine. Many of the local names are very characteristic of the “civil condition” of the country as it was when they were given. Thus, Murderer's Plains, Gallows Hill, and Hell Gate, are the playful titles of three well-known spots, whose sponsors were doubtless bush-rangers at the best.

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