Supplied by Diane Phillips
[This article is reprinted with the permission of The Examiner, and continues on from part 1 in the August edition.]
SOME RECOLLECTIONS OF GEORGE TOWN
With the removal of the principal Government establishments to Launceston the Rev. Mr. Youl followed, and soon after [in 1827] he died there, being succeeded by the late Rev. Dr. W. H. Browne. L.L.D. The house, being large and strong, was deemed suitable for a Female House of Correction, and the necessary offices and other conveniences to completely fit it for that purpose were quickly erected. Prisoner women sentenced in Launceston to various terms of hard labour were despatched to George Town to “serve their time”, and at its expiration they were brought back, when they were again available for private service.
Very few remain of those who took part in the stirring incidents of those times, consequently much that would have possessed thrilling interest to present day readers has been irrevocably lost. A legend, however, still lingers, how that one night the notorious bushranger gang headed by Britton surprised the factory, shot the constable on duty (in those days all the constables were convicts), and carried off one of the women—by no means an unwilling captive —to their mountain hiding places. From George Town, too, nearly all the aborigines collected by Mr. Robinson were shipped to Flinders Island.
Our object was not to write a history of George Town, though the subject is inviting and the material, though daily diminishing, still fairly abundant. The old building that has just disappeared seemed a fitting subject around which to weave a brief narrative of associated facts. The little township near the mouth of the Tamar has witnessed many changes.
At one time comparatively populous — the northern seat of Government, even — its streets were busy with officials and bright with the uniforms of soldiers. Not a vessel dared pass out to sea without bringing up in the Cove to be examined by the police to prevent the escape of convicts; and scarcely a ship entered the river without doing the same – not, of course, for a similar purpose, but for welcome relaxation and refreshment. In those days it was no unusual thing to see the Cove filled with vessels, some of them of large tonnage, and although there were four hotels and several stores, all were busy and flourishing.
With the advent of steamers and the discontinuance of transportation the star of George Town began to wane. There was no longer any need for vessels to call, and passengers naturally objected to delay. In consequence business rapidly declined, and as it had no large extent of agricultural land to back it up, it has fallen into a condition bordering on senility. As one saunters over allotments whose boundaries can only be guessed by a solitary post here and there, or a hawthorn hedge that has defied alike the neglect of men and the fury of the elements for more than half a century, or the lines of ditches that once served as street channels; or as one sees the broken ridges and miniature tunnels which mark the foundations of buildings long since perished, it needs but little effort of imagination to realise — of course, in a very humble way — something of the feelings conjured up to the mind by a visit to the mounds of Nimrod or the ruins of Herculaneum. “’Tis Greece, but living Greece no more.”
Yet George Town has its bright spots even now. It is a charming summer resort; the air is pure, balmy, and bracing. There are many delightful walks on the neighbouring hills or along the river side, whilst the ride to the Heads or to the East Beach leaves nothing to be desired. Those who are fond of boating or fishing can indulge those fancies to their hearts’ content, Kelso, Briant’s Bay, West and Middle Arms, Beauty Point, and Middle Island being available for the purpose.
A little more enterprise in the way of catering for the amusement and occupation of visitors would render the place more attractive, and perhaps nothing would be so effective in this way as a supply of donkeys for both saddle and carriage use, as has been the custom at watering places in England from time immemorial. A steam launch for aquatic parties at reasonable rates would prove a great boon.
One other hope still remains for George Town. If mining around Lefroy, the Springs and the Denison — and especially if the new discovery of gold only about four miles from the township, and which so far gives promise of something exceptionally good — if all or any of these turn out well, then new life will return to the enfeebled frame, and bustle and prosperity will again resound in the streets. That those anticipations may be fully and speedily realised none can more ardently desire than the residents of its old social and commercial rival, Launceston.