A Penal Settlement until 1877, Tasman Peninsula was the last area in Tasmania thrown open for selection of Crown Land at the price of £2 per acre. Children of the pioneers of areas such as Bream Creek, the Carlton, Franklin, Middleton, etc. were looking for land to exploit and were soon taking up lots with the hope of making a living and a home for their families. Over the next seventy years or so a thriving community evolved. By the mid-1980s a number of people on Tasman Peninsula were saying we should collect the stories of our older citizens. Many people were still alive who were born on the Peninsula during the pioneering era of 1880 through to the 1920s – people who had listened to the stories of their parents and experienced the hardships and deprivations, as well as rewards, of pioneering life.
Peter MacFie, resident historian of the Port Arthur Historic Site at the time, was interested in the local history outside of the convict era and through his encouragement a group of people came together and decided to form a local history group. It was decided to concentrate on the history from 1880 onwards as we felt that the Peninsula’s convict history was already being covered by more professional people.
The forthcoming Bicentenary celebrations were an incentive to get something underway.
A public meeting was called and held at the Council Chambers, Nubeena, and the Tasman Peninsula Historical Society was launched in March, 1986. Brian Rieusset was keen to get a publication going and with his support the first Chronicle was published in September, 1986. The first publication was funded by a grant of $1,500 from Council. Since then the Chronicles have all been self-funded.
The Chronicles have always been popular and some of the early editions have been reprinted… and reprinted. Technology has been problematic and we have always had to depend on the skills of generous people who give their time and expertise. There have been many stories told but there are still many more to be told. Getting those stories to production can, at times, be like extracting teeth – but well worth the effort in the end. But let it be remembered, the Chronicles will only continue to be produced if people are prepared to share their family stories with us.
The Society held the first meetings at the Council Chambers, Nubeena, and later on we had meetings in the CWA rooms. Discussion soon arose on the need for the Society to have its own home. We considered a site in Judd Park, Nubeena, and plans were drawn up. A survey of the community made it obvious the community did not want a building in Judd Park and so that plan was abandoned. In 2002 the voluntary group who produced the local newspaper, The Gazette, retired and their premises, the Old Court House at Premaydena became available. We applied to Council and were able to acquire a lease. The Old Court House is most suitable as the building is of the era having been built in the 1880s and needed some tenants to keep it from disintegrating. After obtaining the lease we applied for a grant from the Tasmanian Heritage Fund and were thus able to refurbish the building. We had installed a kitchen, replaced rotten board cladding, installed a toilet block, and upgraded the paths. We moved into the Old Court House which was officially opened as the Tasman Peninsula Historical Society’s home in December, 2005.
In 1990 one of our members, Craig Briggs, proposed the idea of producing a show based on collections of old machinery. Len Robinson ran with the idea and in 1990 Len and Ethel and Craig staged the first Pioneer and Farm Vintage Display (later the Pioneer and Heritage Show) which was well received by the local community and beyond. After Len’s death in 1996, organization of the Show became difficult and it was eventually taken on by Tasman Rotary.
Over the years we have conducted annual Bus Tours which look at various aspects of our pioneering days. We have looked at houses, gardens, cemeteries, sheds, and in the looking have dredged up reminiscences from many people on various aspects of an evolving community, be it milling, fishing, orcharding, small farms, school days, sporting prowess and more.
I shall not mention anyone in particular, for fear of omission, but be assured that the Society would not be flourishing if it were not for the ongoing efforts of many people. The continued support of the community is a tremendous encouragement to us all.
– Ann McGinniss Secretary (retired)