Hard Labour

Still firm believers that Sydney Harbour is the most spectacular on the continent, we learned this week, that it is one of only 3 natural deep water harbours in Australia. The other two are right here in Tasmania – Hobart and Port Arthur. Like Sydney, they were discovered early by all those seafaring captains who settled this land. (Hobart is in fact the second oldest city of our Nation.)

Taking advantage of the Harbour, Port Arthur Prison was built in the 1830’s as a secondary penal colony for repeat offenders, and it was truly harsh. So harsh, that 10 convicts transferring from Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour near Strahan, sailed a boat out Hell’s Gate and made their way to Chile (in the most successful convict escape of the time) rather than go there.

The day of our visit was brilliant sunshine and a warm Tassie day, so the mood was perhaps not as bleak as it might be. Thus it was, that Port Arthur was an interesting learning experience for us all about how the people lived here and the attitudes of the government of the time, to punishment and reform.

On purchase of our entry, we were funneled straight into a walking tour, booked onto a ferry ride into the Harbour, issued with kids workbooks and allocated 10 playing cards which would help us to follow the story of a particular convict who had come to Port Arthur. We spent the day exploring and learning – a highlight being the play performed behind the penitentiary of “A Boy’s Life” which gave us all the story of “George Hall”? (I think!) – a bushranger who was incarcerated in Port Arthur.

Here are some snaps from our day…

Port Arthur Settlement

The Penitentiary where punishment was all about hard labour.

The hospital

Flagstones and the view out to Point Puer from the Penitentiary

The kids looked for clues for their workbooks while the actors helped it all come to life

Cast of "A Boy's Life"

Isle of the dead - cemetery for those who never got their ticket of leave...

On the cruise out to Point Puer, the boy's prison, our boy's hat took its chance for escape from the colony and plunged into the water.

The black flat cap - just about to dive in.... Thankfully, the captain of the ship was much more obliging than those of the 1830's and it was picked up with a grappling hook, just before it met it's end in the propeller.

Remains of the Chapel

The Government gardens - the only part of the site still actively maintained.

We were all horrified by "The Separate Prison" where in later years, the philosophy of punishment was total physical and emotional isolation of the prisoners. Here we are walking in the excercise yards, where they were placed alone each day for an hour.

In keeping with the Port Arthur work ethic, we put in a little more of our own hard labour to establish our campsite on the Tasman Peninsula. Thrown a curve ball when the campsite double booked the Bolger’s cabin, Team Tasmania rose to the challenge erecting tents and setting up camp together complete with roaring fire.

Work gangs in action.

Good to be back to our usual holiday setup together…

Team Tasmania Nippers, sharing a meal at Port Arthur..

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3 Responses to Hard Labour

  1. Marnie says:

    Another enjoyable and informative blog – I never really knew the real history of Port Arthur. Your great pics again – (and we loved Ele’s description of the Bruny Island trip) – all inspire us to see Tassie for ourselves as soon as possible. See you soon!!!

  2. Xman says:

    According to a very accurate source (Si-Si) the story was about “George Baker”! Such a great blog and terrific photos. I have just read all of the recent ones and they all made me wish I was there… Lucky for me I was!!! We are loving the Yarra Valley and our final nights away. Hoping Canberra went well and that your final nights are a very special time for you all. See you back at the ranch… Love B xxx

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