St Marys 1903
The Late David Clement
This report on St Marys is written as though it was 1903. It is based primarily on two newspaper articles of the time, one published in 1903 and the other in 1906, but these have been supplemented by information from other sources, and with hindsight.
St Marys is ensconced on the north-east corner of an immense basin of good agricultural and grazing land, the Break O’ Day Plains, in length about five miles and breadth three miles. On either side rise mountainous rugged ranges, with bluffs and peaks of basalt and sandstone, heavily timbered, their sombre hues throwing into bold relief the brightly green and fertile valley stretching its length at their foot.
Although it has been an exceptionally dry time in the Districts, the country was observed to be far less dried up to the east of Fingal than in the Midlands and South. About two inches of rain has recently fallen, which has served to freshen up the appearance of the whole country. Every rivulet and mountain stream is running, and some excellent crops have been harvested; dairying has not been very severely checked, although the drought has been sufficiently severe this summer in some parts to greatly reduce the flow of milk.
St Marys is the township for the surrounding district; but was not always so: the “Cullenswood” property, two and a half miles distant, was regarded as such in former years, when all addresses were given as ‘Cullenswood’ or “near Cullenswood”. Traces of that era may still be seen, remnants of cottages, an old wooden church of the Catholic belief dating from 1859, a diminutive stone structure announcing itself by a tablet over the door as the “Sunday School 1850”, and Christchurch, the more commodious stone building erected by adherents of the Church of England.
Before “Cullenswood”, the area was known as the St Patricks Head District, in recognition of the dominance over the area of the pyramid mount of St Patricks Head, which gained its appellation from Tobias Fourneaux, Captain of the “ Adventure “ and second-in –command during the second voyage of exploration in 1773 by the great James Cook. The rise and fall of these names as the identification for the district has been reflected by the changing name of the Post Office, “St Patricks Head” from l June 1835 to 23 July 1847 when it became “Cullenswood”, until 12 April 1869 when it was altered to “St Marys”, following the survey of the town site in 1857 and its proclamation as a town in 1864.
The Electoral Roll now shows a total adult population in the district of 678 persons, with 358 enrolled to vote at St Marys, and a further 219 at “Woodlawn” near the mining towns of Cornwall and Mt Nicholas.
Arcadia of the Coast
Approaching St Marys, from the direction of Fingal, may be seen to the front St Patricks Head and Mt Elephant, and the Island Ranges on the right. To the left you pass Mt Nicholas, South Sister, that used to be called Mt Mary, and Cheeseberry Hill. Reference was made in 1864 in Walch’s Almanac to “Mount Elephant”, due to its perceived resemblance to the shape of the pachyderm, although officially it still appears on maps as Mt Logie, after the property name of an early settler in the area, Dr Alexander Thompson.
The town nestles snugly upon a gentle rise of the road leading to Georges Bay. When the traveller pulls up at St Marys Hotel, and has received the cheery welcome of the genial host, “Mick” Cullenan, a great placidity of soul takes possession, and all around is peace. This feeling is irresistible; the environment conduces to its existence, a huge smile of contentment seeming to overspread this arcadia of our coast. We are lost in wonder that the travelling photographer has not flooded the country with views of the place. On enquiring on the merits of the neighbourhood as a holiday resort, you will hear “fishing and shooting is good, at numerous places around here, Falmouth, Scamander River, Four Mile Creek and Seymour. Trout in the Break O’ Day River are here at the back door, and duck and kangaroo shooting everywhere”. “Beauty Spots?” “Yes, there’s St Patricks Head, you can drive part of the way to it, and easily ascend the rest on foot. The view coastwards, seawards and inland is splendid. Then there are the Sisters at Germantown, and many other equally pleasant spots.
The township is typical of a thriving country district. It has several streets, adorned by neat and comfortable weatherboard dwellings of assorted sizes, and is splendidly drained by the St Patrick’s Rivulet. Two more streets lamps were put in place last year, making a total of three. Several important buildings have been erected quite recently, in 1896 Holy Trinity, the Church of England, and in 1899 the Roman Catholic Church, previously at Cullenswood. There is also a Wesleyan Chapel, established almost 20 years since. The respective clergymen are the Rev W Cockerall, Father Fleming as the visiting priest, and Pastor A. S. Wellard. Apparently the Catholic Church service was postponed for two days recently as Father Fleming missed the train. A bazaar recently resulted in £40 being raised to help for a new church at Gray, the remainder for painting Holy Trinity.
The public hall is the Victoria Hall, connected with the Criterion Hotel, recently built by Mr Jacob Morey, a substantial weatherboard structure, capable of holding about 400 persons. The buildings and business places have a modern appearance, on account of the youthfulness of the town. Early this year the building line of the township was further improved, when Mr James Smith erected an attractive two story shoe shop and residence. In addition to the Railway and Police Stations, the Post Office, Churches and Saleyards, there are two hotels, a hall, four stores, blacksmiths, a saddler bootmakers, wheelwrights, butcher, baker, barber and chemist shops, a branch of the National Bank close to the Post Office, under the management of Mr Ditcham, the St Marys State School, a Circulating Library , a Recreation Ground and a Cheese Factory.
Mr William James Todd started in business here in premises which he leased in 1890 for five years adjacent to the Criterion Hotel. He then erected a handsome two storey building, Todd’s Hall, adjoining the St Marys Hotel which had been purchased by his father, Mr William Todd, who made very great improvements thereto in 1895, both inside and out, adding eight new rooms and a balcony running round two sides of the house. The store is lofty, well lighted and ventilated, and the stock is thoroughly comprehensive, embodying jewellery and stationery, besides the usual goods kept by a first-class store, viz groceries, ironmongery, drapery, boots and shoes etc. The purchase of the dairy produce of the district for export is also an important feature of the business.
The business of Mr Frederick Napier in Groom Street was founded about 1862 by Mr William Lade, and is the oldest general store. It commands the trade not only of the immediate neighbourhood, but of the coal mines and the entire surrounding country. An important feature of the business is the purchase of the dairy produce for export to the principal markets. The stock is varied and extensive, replete with every class of goods to meet the requirements of the district. The business was purchased by the father of the present proprietor in 1885, in partnership with Sir P. O. Fysh, and came into his possession when the former died in 1892.
The store in the Main Road, recently taken over by Mr Hilton Dawborn, is on equal terms with those of Messrs Napier and Todd, having been a major centre of commerce in the town since its construction by Joseph Ebenezer Clarke in 1880 and the subsequent ownership of Mr John Tomlin Cramp. The other store in town, Messrs Dawson Bros, is a soft goods establishment, and customers can always depend on securing articles of the latest fashion at little more than cost price.
A few weeks ago, Mr T. G. Collins opened a hairdressing saloon in the main street, and is prepared to give patrons the benefit of his experience as a tradesman.
Disturbers of the peace and breakers of the law are rarities, and Trooper Lamb is quite equal to keeping order in the town; the apartments at the rear of his quarters in Groom Street are more often “to let” than tenanted. However, it is not always tranquil in the town, as evidenced by this letter to the Editor of the Examiner in April. “The Roman Catholic Chapel is a very nice building situated at the very end of the township; very recently bullets were fired through its ornamental windows. There is a reward offered for the conviction of those who did this dastardly deed. W. G. Mitchell, St Marys”. Even the reputation and standing of members of the community is no guarantee that they may not fall foul of authority, as witnessed by the presence of Messrs H. Woodberry, W. Lohrey, H. Lohrey junior and A. V. Doyle at the St Marys Police Court in June for failure to dip their sheep according to the Act, for which they were each fined £1. On the same occasion, Mr W. Smith appeared on a school case, suffering to the extent of 2/6d for the failure of his child to attend school.
The St Marys Hotel built in 1861 and opened in 1867 by Mr Thomas Hardy, and the Criterion Hotel built by Mr Jacob Morey in 1890, are the public conveniences. The former is currently licensed by Mr M. Cullenan and the latter by Mr A P Lucas. A short time ago a first class billiard table was added to the St Marys Hotel, and exponents of the art are confident that it is one of the best tables in Tasmania. After Mr William Todd purchased the St Marys Hotel in 1894 he requested his son-in-law Mr Cullenan to come from Bendigo to manage it; the hostelry is the popular family and commercial hotel of the township, and is situated close to the Post Office and Railway Station. The house can accommodate twenty guests, and during the busy season additional room can be utilised. The St Patricks River, which is teeming with trout and blackfish, runs at the foot of the garden and affords excellent sport for visitors.
St Marys Pass
Tourists have so great a diversity of drives and walks to places of note to choose from, affording so many facilities for the admiration of nature’s wonders, that the interest never flags. Of these may be mentioned St Marys Pass : driving to St Helens, the road leads through this Pass. The road was made between 1842-1845 by convict labour, kept in barracks at St Marys Pass Probation Station, situated on the ‘grassy bottom’ of St Patricks Head. Leading to the Pass, one travels through a short, natural avenue of towering gum trees, known locally as “The Avenue” . The road is dotted on either side here and there with the neat cottages of selectors. The clearings around announce the struggle going on between man and forest. In the time of the construction of the Pass this approach was referred to as St Marys Vale, or valley.
On the opposite side of the road to the piece of ground where was sited the Probation Station, about a mile from the Post Office at St Marys, is an old burying ground, said to have been used for the burial of convicts who died on the construction of the Pass. It is covered with thick scrub, and there is not a fence or sign to mark the locality, save a few rough stones that are round one or two graves. A stranger would meet with great difficulties in finding the place, and even then he would not know its former purpose unless acquainted with the fact. It is to be regretted that the authorities are not sensitive enough to prevent this sad place from drifting into the same level as if beasts were buried there.
On reaching the top of the vale, almost without notice the Pass is entered, and the magnificent gorge stretches to the ocean in picturesque grandeur. Down through the trees, hundreds of feet below, glistens a tiny stream; tumbling over the side of a hill a waterfall leaps and rushes, and away towards the ocean are the rollers breaking on black rocks in white foam. The road winds for four miles along the mountain side in an easy descent, turning and looping no less than 50 times, sometimes under overhanging cliffs, and then skirting along the edges of precipices, deep gorges and fern glades. It is a wonderfully graded road, and affords a delightful ride for a bicyclist on a “free wheel”, though the Minister for Land recently inspected some parts of it which required attention on account of landslips. The beautiful native shrubs and flowers add enchantment to the scene, and the thick clustering clematis in profusion, diffuse sweet fragrance through the cool zephyrs wafted from the sea. The immense forests of the gorge include ironbark, gums, stringybark, native cherry and sassafras. A few brave settlers have carved homes for themselves in the dense forest, deep down in the bottom of the gorge, doing a little dairying and growing very fine vegetables. When the level is reached, the road branches off to the spacious Falmouth flats on the one hand and continues onto Georges Bay on the other.
There are other passes beside that of St Marys – Island Range Pass, Four Mile Creek Pass and that on the road to Germantown, all of which afford beautiful seascape views. While St Marys Pass, was completed in 1845, the Pass to the south, Island Range Pass, the road to Picannini, was blazed only as late as 1878 by Mr William Meinas, then a new settler in the district from Prussia. This contribution to his new homeland afforded a much quicker access to Swansea and the East Coast, and has made St Marys the junction of all coastal and inland travel on this side of the island. However, in May of this year, there was a terrific gale in which many giants of the forest were shattered and rooted up, blocking nearly all the roads.
Tourists must not fail to climb St Patricks Head, the pyramid shaped mount which dominates the area as you approach from the east, familiarly known as and irreverently called “Paddys Head”. The climb is not a difficult one to those not overburdened with adipose matter; even so, any exertion expended in reaching the summit is amply repaid – if there is no haze – by the gorgeous cyclorama. To reach the top a good track has been cut, the cost of which was defrayed by subscription raised locally. Still a few more pounds spent on it would make it perfect. The height of the mount from the base to summit is estimated at 1200 feet, but the actual height above sea level approaches double that at 2227 feet.
The St Patricks Rivulet, a contributory to the Break O’ Day River and hence the South Esk, winds its sinuous course around the outskirts of the town. Although not carrying any great volume of water as it flows, it has many ponds wherein good fishing may be had; excellent hauls of blackfish, trout and eels may be taken. The bridge over the rivulet near the Roman Catholic Church was closed against traffic for over a month earlier this year, on account of it being unsafe, and vehicles had to be driven over the ford nearby. Representations were made to the effect that the Government would confer a great boon on the residents if a new bridge was to be constructed without delay, which apparently were well received, as a new bridge was started in mid July and completed by the end of the first week in August
Agriculture and Grazing
The flat country around is very good, most of it being dark loam, though such products as potatoes do not thrive well owing to the severe frosts that are frequently experienced, due to the high elevation of the locality, which is 832 feet above sea level. On the flat land there is also a danger of rot. Also, at times the local farmers have found it a very difficult matter to gain a market for their potatoes and, as they do not care to dispose of them at the prevailing low market prices, make use of them for their cattle and pigs. It is grazing and dairying which are largely carried on in the district, the fat stock and sheep finding their way into the northern markets; the milk producers direct their attention to cheese and butter for returns. Some of the dairy herds number as many as 60 or 70 head, although the industry is almost dormant in the winter, as there is generally a scarcity of feed during that period. Large quantities of cheese and butter are made in all parts of the district, the year’s supply frequently purchased in advance by the wholesale buyers.
The district contains such notable estates and properties as “Killymoon”, Millbrook”, “Kooringa”, “Cullenswood”, “Londavra” and “Harefield”. The Harefield estate was cut up into blocks and sold after the death of Mr Francis Groom in 1890, the purchasers now utilizing the land for grazing and cultivation. It is regrettable that, with land so suitable, the growing of cereal crops is so much neglected, and also that those who do cultivate hardly ever change the crop or let the land lie fallow, but work it year after year without rest or change until it is exhausted.
The Cornwall Guide mentions that there are small lots of first class, and large areas of second and third class lands still available for selection in the neighbourhood. It may be added that on some of the land denominated ‘second class’ land, dairying is successfully carried on, as certain grasses, notably cocksfoot, perennial ryegrass, clover and fog grown on such lands do wonderfully well.
The largest holding in the district is “Londavra”, of which Mr Robert Cameron is the owner. It is divided into 10 or 11 farms, each having its respective name. All are engaged in dairying, though most cultivate small areas – chiefly for their own use. The biggest dairyman in the district is Mr Henry Woodberry, whose block surrounds the original Londavra homestead. He has been a resident of the locality for some 25 years, but intends to leave when his present lease expires, 12 months hence. During the past season he milked as many as 70 cows, and treated the milk with a hand separator capable of putting through 100 gallons per hour, manufacturing butter on his premises.
Mr L Berwick, another tenant of the Londavra estate, has recently taken over the tenancy of “Ascot Vale” on the Londavra estate from Mr Robert Cadman, one of the oldest residents of St Marys and known far and wide for the perfection to which he has brought cheese-making in the district. His dairy farm comprised 240 acres of excellent dairying land, used to the best advantage. On average about 60 cows are milked daily, with the milk practically all used in the manufacture or cheese, the average output being between 5 - 6 tons each season. Mr Cadman worked the farm and lived on it for 38 years, and took many exhibition prizes for his cheeses, both in the colony and other countries, winning the medal and certificate at the Calcutta International Exhibition of 1884.
Other farmers in the season either send their milk to the factory, or make butter themselves. Mr George William Oliver carries on dairy farming at “Balaclava”, which he purchased from the late Mr John Story after leasing it for five years, and has been producing cheese, butter and bacon for twenty five years. Mr Lohrey on “Daisyburn” at Dublin Town has been making cheese for the past 26 years he has been on his property.
The “Picnic” Cheese
The cheese from this quarter holds deservedly a high reputation among consumers, and the butter also commands a ready sale. In 1894 the Tasmanian Dairy Company erected a creamery apposite the Railway Station, a building 21 x 24 feet to supply the company’s Launceston butter factory, but several years back in 1897 it was turned into a cheese factory, 32 x 28 feet with store 24 x 20, being completely insulated in the floors, walls and ceilings, so far their manufacture has been of excellent quality. The factory was taken over in 1901 by the Tasmanian Produce and Cool Stores Company. A separator is attached to the factory for the convenience of those farmers who care to avail themselves of its use. It closes during Winter, and re-opens in the Spring. The factory is now under the management of Mr Fallon. The product bears the brand name knows as the “Picnic”.
The cheeses are turned out in weights of 3, 10 and 25 pounds each, all finding ready sale within Tasmania. Only full cream milk is used in the making, and when the factory is in full work 700 gallons of milk per day is dealt with; the two vats hold 500 gallons each. The milk is obtained from farmers residing within a radius of 4 miles, and from it only cheese is turned out, butter being less profitable.
Above the fog and the rich marshlands of Londavra are mountains to the north west of St Marys; over these mountains is the district of German Town, so called because descendants of the settlers who arrived in the district in 1855 from the German States were the early settlers there. German Town is carved out of the dense heavily-timbered forest by a most industrious, thrifty lot of settlers who are reaping their reward. Adjacent is the settlement of Dublin Town, the location of ‘Derry Lodge’, home of Mr R. Speers. The flat country of both settlements in its natural state was very heavily timbered, but the soil, being a rich chocolate, was sufficient to entice the settlers to set to work and clear it. There are only a few holdings, ranging from 50 to 200 acres. The principal residents are Messrs T. H. & P. Lohrey, who have resided in the locality for nearly 30 years. There are two public buildings, the Church of England and the State School.
However, it would be misleading to believe that German Town is the focus of settlement in the District for migrants from the German States. While the Lohreys arrived in Tasmania on the America in 1855 with other settlers from Bavaria, Nassau, Wirtemburg and other independent German States, other migrants from Prussia in 1870 took up land and settled predominantly n a crescent from an area below St Patricks Head, now strangely referred to as Irishtown, through Green Valley and Gray and along Thompsons Marsh Road.
The settlers in the district from the German States arrived on various migrant ships between 1855 and 1872. Of greatest significance to the Break O’Day Plains was the “America” in 1855, and the “Victoria” and the “Figaro” in 1870. The migrants on the “America” were leaving behind economic depression in Europe at the time, encouraged by the bounty migrant scheme introduced to overcome the shortage of labour brought about by the cessation of convict transportation in 1853. The migrants on the Victoria and the Figaro were mainly families who had lost menfolk in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, and who feared to lose more in the obviously upcoming Franco-Prussian War of 1870. These families and their descendants are now an integral part of the local community and economy. Before they arrived, the landowners used their land as sheep and cattle runs; the new settlers brought a different history and culture to the area, and new skills, and have planted and sowed, producing grapes, hops, potatoes and numerous vegetables, smoked and pickled, made cheese, yoghurt, butter and sausages, brewed beer and made wine.
St Marys is the terminus of the Fingal Railway line, opened in 1886. This station supplies, on order, all the coal trucks needed by the mines to take away their coal. In addition to the ordinary trains running daily, a special rake of coal truck is run every other day. From each pit a tramway runs to the railway line which enables a train to be loaded without much inconvenience. The mines have telephone communication with the railway station, which greatly facilitates trucking arrangements. There is a running shed affording berthing room for four engines; also a goods shed. Residences, “Railway Cottages”, are provided by the Department for the station master, Mr F G Tabart, guard and engineers. The traffic on the line is mostly in the carriage of coal, and it is the return from that source upon which the upkeep of the line chiefly depends. It is no coincidence that both Cornwall and Mt Nicholas Mines and the St Marys Railway Station commenced working in the same year,1886.
There is, however, a good deal of dissatisfaction existing locally, at the Railway Department not being able to supply enough trucks at all times to meet the demands of the mines. When trucks are not available, no work is done, which means a great loss to the men. The same state of affairs is experienced each year at this season, owing to the large trade on the North West Coast with harvest products calling for trucks. Neither have the passenger train arrangements, either to Hobart or Launceston, been at all satisfactory. For over two years endeavours have been made to induce the Government to run two trains a day each way to Conara Junction. Passengers have been subjected to long delays at the Junction on certain days, which could have been avoided if trains left St Marys daily at 9.00 am and 12.30 pm. Satisfaction has been expressed on all sides at the alteration to the service to meet these complaints, just announced.
Coal is plentiful in the district. The two major mines are the Cornwall and the Mount Nicholas Mines, which have been worked since 1886, but the Jubilee Mine which was discovered in 1896 started last year, and St Marys Railway Station is lively at present with five trucks of coal leaving the station each morning, the combined output of the Jubilee and Cardiff mines. The Cardiff Coal Mining Company No Liability only earlier this year increased its Nominal Capital from £2500 to £3500, while application has been made this November to form The Dalmayne Coal Association to operate in the Parish of Boultbie, with 1500 shares being taken up, mainly by Hobart investors. Mr E Gaunt is Legal Manager of both companies.
The Cornwall and Mount Nicholas mines each employ about 75 men under the charge of Mr D Brough at Cornwall and Mr S Birrell at Mt Nicholas. Cornwall is three miles from St Marys, and has a co-existence with its neighbour, Mount Nicholas – a distance of about two miles separate them. Leading from one to the other is a very rough foot track which runs along the side of the range over logs, bogs, rocks and creeks. Both mines started to get out coal at the same time in 1886, and made great efforts to obtain the first truck of coal. Both succeeded in getting a truck out on the same day, so honours were equal. There are miniature townships at both collieries. Most of the miners and their families reside at the colliery in neat little cottages. Some have been settled there for years and, as most are married men with families, the respective localities always wear a busy appearance, especially on a day when there is no work in the pits. At both places there are State Schools for the convenience of the miner’s children, as it would be too far for them to journey to St Marys. Not all employees are miners, the companies employ blacksmiths, electricians, and ostlers also for tending the ponies. At Cornwall there are two stores doing business. A small, but excellent, brass band, the Cornwall Brass Band, has been formed by the miners. In addition to discoursing music to their own community they at times give their friends at St Marys a musical treat.
Nonetheless, harmony does not prevail at all times. Only last year there was high drama at Mount Nicholas mine. It was found that the scales on which the contract miner’s output was weighed, was out by 737 tons compared with Government weights. The men offered to work on daily wages, but management declined the offer, and the mine was closed while new scales were installed. The screens were also found to be too big as they allowed too much small coal to fall though. Late in the year, there was a fire at the Colliery. Some two years ago, miners at both Cornwall and Mount Nicholas were on strike over pay, and men in company houses were given 14 days to quit their houses. Again last year miners were on strike for 4 months over the pay of men working the poorer sections.
A visitor to St Marys had the opportunity to visit the working of the Cornwall Mine; the following is the report of his experiences: “After an inspection of the engine house and the electric plant we boarded the motor engine that is employed drawing the skips to and from the mine. We were carried along at express speed for about three-quarters of a mile underground along the main tunnel. So far the mine was brilliantly illuminated by electricity. On leaving the motor and getting into one of the empty skips drawn by ponies we were compelled to sit very low on account of the inky darkness and the lowness of the rock overhead which, by the way, was made of solid coal. After travelling for about a quarter of a mile we left the skips and continued our way in a stooping position to the face where I noticed the men at work. The sight of a coal miner at work is very peculiar. He is down on his knees with a short pick, belting away at a solid wall of coal, the only light being a small pipe-like bowl fixed to his cap, which sheds a weird light.
Arriving at the face I had to follow my guide, dog fashion, a considerable distance, the roof being only three feet high. While sitting down having a rest I head a loud crack over my head. Naturally enough I made a move in record time, thinking the whole mine was coming down. My companions smilingly told me that the noise was caused by the mine settling down. We then passed dozens of miners at work in pairs – one hewing and the other filling the skips. These skips are then drawn out to the main tunnel by the ponies, where the skips are transferred to the motor engine and hauled to the top of the hill where they are sent down by a winding process to the screens. After screening, the coal is placed in trucks, ready for the market. A series of loaded trucks runs downhill by its own weight, pulling a similar number of empty ones uphill by means of a wire tope passing around a large winding wheel controlled by a powerful brake. After three hours in the mine we returned to daylight, wiser but blacker men.”
Great excitement was caused on 29th May last when a motor car passed through, enroute to the East Coast, the first vehicle of it kind to pass through the town. The roads of the district are the responsibility of the St Marys Road District Trust, currently composed of Mr Michael Cullenan as Chairman and Treasurer, and Messrs Phillip Lohrey, Thomas William King and Thomas Berwick as Trustees. The Road Rate for the year has been set at one shilling in the pound (5%) on all private property, and sixpence in the pound on Crown Lands, as shown by the Assessment Roll for the Municipality of Fingal for the year 1903.
There has been some discussion locally on the appointment of Mr Bryant as Road Overseer, on the basis that he was not a local man. However, a report states that “the Road Overseer for the past fortnight has been engaged in erecting a new bridge in the Parish of Gray. The work is very neatly and safely executed: concluded that “Mr Bryant is showing his ability in a very pleasing and satisfactory manner:. Tenders have been called for grubbing briars and gorse on the road between Killymoon and St Marys, but only one tender was received and was deemed too high in price, so that the Trust thought it advisable to have the work executed by its own staff.
Whilst almost all receipts of the Trust are from the Road Rate levied on property owners, it did last year charge the Education Department £6 for clearing stones from the playground at Gray School, and earned sixteen shillings from selling materials from drains, of Total Receipts of £490. The major expenses were Day Labour £242, Stone Crusher £90, Cartage £62, Horse-feed £32, Blacksmith’s work £15 and Fencing Scrubbing and Clearing £6. The cost of the horse feed generated some correspondence To the Editor:- “Sir, a report of the St Marys Road Trusts last meeting stated that about four tons of chaff were used in keeping the road horse from January 1 to May 30, a period of five months, for a cost of £11. As the Trust have now disposed of their horse, why do they not purchase one in its place? We are now paying a carter four shillings a day for his horse, amounting to £30 for four months. The carter does not supply his own dray, but is utilising that of the Trust. If we allow eight shillings a month for shoes, or £2 over the four months, there would be a balance of £17 in favour of having a horse of their own, even allowing for blacksmithing work. Yours etc.”
With the exception of coal, no other mineral appears to have been seriously prospected for in the district. Why such is the case would be hard to say, for the ranges around have all the indications of auriferous and stanniferous possibilities, and they do not present the same difficulties and hardships which the prospector on the West Coast has to encounter. About 16 years ago a little prospecting work was done close to the town on the Georges Bay Road. It consisted in putting a shaft down and driving an adit (entrance) in, giving prospects of gold and galena, but whether these were payable or not there are no records to show. Probably at that time they were not considered payable, as the efforts of that prospector were contemptuously dubbed “House’s Folly”.
Of course, in any district, no matter how healthy, there are always to be found infantile problems. While, the general salubrity of St Marys would seem to prevent the possibility of a “medico” from earning his salt, should he take his chance here, it is necessary – as disease and accidents are always lurking – for the residents to guard against danger, and have the services of a medical man close at hand. Indeed, whooping cough and influenza have been prevalent in some houses and the winter weather was accompanied by bad colds and sickness. At present, Dr Hoskings of Fingal is the nearest medical man. He was only recently here in the town, engaged in vaccination against smallpox. The residents have been astir, and signatures to a guarantee of a fixed income as an inducement for a doctor to settle in St Marys were obtained by a vigorous canvas organised by Messrs McHugo and Schiers, with the result that Doctor Walker has been obtained for the town. It is to be hoped that he will be happy with the practice, and that his arrival may prevent some of the less happy consequences of self-treatment. An inquest recently found that Miss Mary Davis at Fingal died of congestion of the brain due to an overdose of creosote, as a consequence of placing a wadding dipped in the substance on an aching tooth.
Some eight years ago there was a public meeting convened to discuss establishing a Public Cemetery for St Marys. A subsequent meeting announced that suitable ground had been found and steps taken to secure it, and the ground in Gray Road was commenced three years back, consecrated firstly by the Methodists in 1899 and the Catholics and Presbyterians two years ago. As yet, the Anglicans have not done so. There are two Undertakers in the township, Mr Mitchell and Mr McHugo, apparently keenly in competition, with rates of ten shillings for a grave and five pounds for a burial. Last year Mr W G Mitchell complained in the “Examiner” that “it is virtually impossible to find vacant ground in Cullenswood cemetery. Sometimes three attempts are necessary to find ground that does not contain other bodies”. Mr Mitchell urged that now there was a public cemetery in the area, burials at Cullenswood should be ceased, except for reserved sites. The Accounts for the St Marys Public Cemetery for the year ending 31 December last year (1902) showed receipts of £2-15-6 from fees for private graves and £1-0-0 for public graves, insufficient to meet the £8-0-0 interest on loan, which needed to be met from the balance of the previous year’s operations.
The State School house in Main Street is an old fashioned building, divided into two fairly large rooms, and the teacher’s residence is a detached four roomed cottage standing in its own grounds. The school building is of wooden construction, old and dilapidated. It was erected about 1876. The walls are now crumbling to pieces, age and dry rot is telling its tale. Besides, the accommodation for the children is far too scanty, and a much larger building is urgently required. When Mr Smith took charge of the school in 1893, the number of pupils on the roll was only about 60. The number of scholars on the roll now is 95, and the average daily attendance about 80. The school for the past two years has been in the charge of Mr Edward McGregor, who, in his work, is assisted by two lady teachers. It is understood that at the beginning of next year, the erection of a new school house will be commenced. It will be none too soon. However the district as a whole is well supplied with schools; there are no less than five of these within a five mile radius of the Post office, situated at Mt Nicholas, Cornwall, St Patricks Head, Germantown and Gray.
The Fingal Municipal Council at its meetings sometimes goes into session as a ‘Board of Advice’ regarding school affairs. At its meeting in May, the Board received an application by the teacher of the Cornwall State School to have a woodshed erected and a lock placed on the door to prevent coal being stolen. This at a place built on coal! In true Solomon fashion the members decided they were not empowered to construct new buildings and would communicate the request to the Department. At the same meeting, application was received from the St Marys State School for an additional allowance to be made for cleaning of the premises, but it was decided to let the matter stand over for a month, in the meantime other arrangements might be made.
The Circulating Library, sustained by a few ladies who act as honorary librarians, is stocked with a well-selected lot of books which, if not exactly the latest publications, are entertaining and instructive, the Library being well supported and much appreciated.
There is no lack of sport in St Marys, cricket and football are prominent pastimes, and in the seasons create a great deal of interest. The Recreation Ground is quite close to the town. On it the teams practice and fight their battles with leather sphere and willow. Sports Meetings are also held on the ground, as it is admirably adapted for all kinds of athletic contests. The Fingal Council this year set aside £25 in response to an application for assistance to improve the Recreation Ground. Mr James Phillips, the blacksmith, who takes great interest in matters of this kind, and in the improvement of the ground, was successful in collecting £3-5-0 for tree planting. Having obtained sixty trees, he and Mr L Schier, who is the saddler of the town, lately planted them in the Reserve and supplied tree guards for their protection.
The Racing Club is most important in the town. The principal fixture is on a New Year’s Day, when about £150 is given away in stakes. The racecourse is two miles away on the Woodlawn Estate, owned by Mr R Wardlaw. The racing committee has now obtained the use of a tract of land adjoining the Recreation Reserve, on which they propose holding meetings in the future. The area of land is barely sufficient of itself to cut out a full course. However, if they succeed in persuading the Trustees of the Recreation Reserve to grant the use of a portion of their ground when race meetings are being held, then an excellent racing track would be provided. This need not be used as a training track, as there is ample space for that purpose on the committee’s own ground. Racing in the district should be encouraged as it teems with good sportsmen and cross country riders; while over the sticks’ (hurdles) are always part of the Racing Club’s programme, the St Marys Handicap over 1¼ miles for a prize of 10 sovereigns is the premier event. Mr A V Doyle and Mrs Doyle both race gallopers. They have their stables adjacent to their residence on the Rivulet, sometimes eleven horses. According to my informant they do not always see eye to eye about horses – their sons, Ernie, Arthur and Percy ride for them, two for the mother and one for the father.
There is no shortage of entertainment in the town, with each denomination providing Picnic Days for the children of their following, and Balls seeming to take place with an exhausting regularity. In May a Ball was held at the Victoria Hall, the proceeds of which amounted to £6 to go towards a new horse and trap for Father Fleming, whose existing vehicle was in a sad state of repair. Previously, in April, the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Entertainers gave a very successful entertainment in the Hall to a large and appreciative audience.
There had been some dejection early in the year when several residents journeyed to Launceston intending to hear Madame Melba sing. All returned looking downcast and feeling very disappointed at not having hear the gifted songstress. During August a Plain and Fancy Dress Ball was given by the St Marys Brass Band. The attendance was only moderate and no fancy dress was worn. A hand around supper was given at 12o’clock, and the dancing broke up at 2.00 am. Mrs Goldsmith and Miss Madden acted as pianists, and Mr Alf Bullock made an excellent MC.
The Brass Band is a great acquisition to the township, and its performances materially enliven local amusements. A large number of people assembled in the Victoria Hall on a Saturday night in October to witness handicap chopping and sawing matches. Meetings are held by the Band of Hope at the Wesley Hall, at which songs, recitations, dialogues and duets are rendered. Socials are held for the children of the State School, given by Miss Blackett, at which friends and relatives of the little ones assemble for an amusing and pleasant evening.
As may be expected of a location set among mountains and plains and in close proximity to the coast, the weather of the township may be somewhat of a “curate’s egg”. The regular reports on the district provided by the ‘Country Correspondent’ to the “Examiner” indicate that while it may in general be Arcadia, there are times in winter when it is otherwise: “throughout the past week the weather has been miserable, raining every day, accompanied by very heavy fogs”. ‘The weather has been cold and miserable, rain falling every day. The Farmers are now nursing their cattle through being exposed to such violent storms, and several losses have been reported through the past fortnight.” However, all clouds have a silver lining: “The frosts early morning are very severe at present, but, delightful to say, we have very nice sunshine during the days.” “The cattle on the winter runs are doing well up to the present”, and Arcadia returns: “The District is experiencing lovely Spring weather, grass is abundant, and there is every prospect of a bountiful harvest.”
The township of St Marys was surveyed in 1857 and lots first sold in that year. Sprent’s map of 1858 showed St Marys as “a township not yet settled.” It was proclaimed as a town in 1864, and Walch’s Almanac of that year described it as follows: “The private road to Harefield is bounded by the township of St Marys, where is seen the Police Office to the right. There are about half a dozen tenements on the township, including the house of Mr Thomas Hardy at the side of the rivulet. Crossing this by a log bridge, the road continues through forest for some miles”. In 1871 there were still only 5 houses ‘on the town’, but following the opening of the coal mines and the railway in 1886 and the property developments by Mr Joseph Ebeneezer Clarke at the same time on “the block’ including cottages, a store and a bank building, the town has grown mightily over the past 20 years, with a corresponding increasing the townie population of the area.
The original town boundaries have not been extended since its survey in 1859 and its proclamation in 1863, meaning that those properties on the eastern side of the Rivulet, such as Mr Doyle’s butchery, Dawson Bros, the Criterion Hotel and Victoria Hall are not ‘on the town’. It is anticipated that the boundaries are to be enlarged next year, recognising the reality of the growth of the town over recent years and the vigour of its present community, and the fact that St Marys has become the capital of the Break O’ Day Plains and the surrounding Highlands.