On the ossie: Tasmanian osmiridium and the fountain pen industry.

Millions of words flowed from the serpentine hills of western Tasmania. The Waratah and Adamsfield districts produced ‘point metal’ osmiridium, used to tip the gold nibs of fountain pens. For a time in the early 1900s Tasmania had a world monopoly on point metal ‘ossie’—an alloy much more valuable than gold. Sent to New York and London to drive Waterman, Swan, Sheaffer, Parker, Onoto and Conway Stewart pens, Tasmanian osmiridium became a signatory to startling world events. It also bolstered family budgets at home. To be ‘on the ossie’ was to have the chance to escape poverty and drudgery. Like gold strikes across the globe, Tasmania’s rare earth quickened diggers’ pulses—and, astonishingly, inspired a challenge to Hollywood dominance of Australian cinemas.

This book can be bought online, click here

(in press) Wonderstruck: treasuring Tasmania’s caves and karst: a history of Tasmanian cave tourism, exploration and conservation, Forty South Publishing, Lindisfarne, Tas, 2015.

Caves are places of wonder and mystery. By 1840 a Gothic regime of candles and bark torches. heightened the thrill of the ‘Sublime’ within Wet Cave on Mole Creek, in northern Tasmania. More than a dozen Tasmanian tourist caves, from Gunns Plains to Ida Bay, have glistened in guiding light. Farmers turned to home-baked hospitality when the Industrial Revolution mobilised urban excursionists, opening private ‘show’ caves by the glow of acetylene gas. After World War II, Sam Carey’s Tasmanian Caverneering Club, the first Australian caving club, began a quest to discover, record and protect Tasmanian caves which continues today. Wonderstruck: treasuring Tasmania’s caves and karst is the story of these journeys of subterranean discovery, the myths and the legends, the explorers and the ecological battlegrounds, the ‘master’ caves and the megafauna dens, the entrepreneurs and the raconteurs.

This book can be bought online, click here

Mountain men: stories from the Tasmanian high country, Forty South Publishing, Lindisfarne, Tas, 2015 (with Simon Cubit)

Mountain men comprises the stories of ten men who lived or worked in the Tasmanian high country from 1870 to 1990. Hunters, mineral prospectors, guides, rangers and tourism operators, horse riders and walkers, they all played a role in the development of nature tourism and recreation in the Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair region. More than just a collection of biographies, the book creates a compelling narrative of the European history of today’s central highlands.

This book is SOLD OUT

James Walden (1831–1934): an early Australian merchant and his family, Walden Family, Sydney, 2015.

The book is about Launceston skins and grain merchant James Walden (1831-1934) and his family. James was not only a man of remarkable longevity but of remarkable enterprise, amassing a fortune, building a magnificent house, 'Beauty Park' at Newstead, Launceston, and exporting not only to the mainland colonies and states but to New Zealand and England. Today his descendants are spread across at least four countries.

This book can be bought online here

Historic Tasmanian mountain huts: through the photographer’s lens, Forty South Publishing, Lindisfarne, Tas, 2014 (with Simon Cubit)

The introduction of portable dry plate cameras in the late 1870s marked the beginning of a golden age of Tasmanian landscape photography. With cameras on their backs, adventurers explored the wilds of Tasmania, recording not just the dramatic physical features they found but also the typically rough shelters of the miners, hunters, stockmen and piners who lived or worked in the bush. In this beautiful book Simon Cubit and Nic Haygarth use this rich photographic heritage as the basis for a series of extraordinary stories about human enterprise in the Tasmanian highlands

This book can be bought online here

The Norfolk Plains: a history of Longford, Perth, Cressy and Bishopsbourne, Tasmania, Northern Midlands Council, Longford, 2013.

In 1813 members of the abandoned Norfolk Island community were resettled on flats along the South Esk River about 15 kilometres from Launceston. Governor Lachlan Macquarie christened these flats the Norfolk Plains. They belonged to the Panninher Aboriginal people. Tribal Aboriginals were dispossessed of their hunting grounds, on which European settlers placed wheat, sheep and assigned convict workers. Longford, Cressy, Perth and Bishopsbourne developed as community hubs and supply centres for one of the richest agricultural districts in Tasmania. Today the Norfolk Plains are famous not just for their farming produce, but for their convict heritage, Georgian buildings, picture-perfect scenery and their enterprising, creative people.

Joe Fagan’s Waratah: celebrating the life of a great west coaster, Joe Fagan Jnr, Waratah, 2009.

Waratah born … Waratah bred … Joe Fagan was a West Coast success story. When the dust settled on Waratah’s world-famous Mount Bischoff tin mine in 1947, the enterprising miner’s son was already building a workforce and marshalling machines. Joe’s command of heavy industry enabled him to exploit the West Coast’s ‘second coming’ after 1955—and thereby ensure Waratah’s survival. Mines like Savage River, Renison, Cleveland and Que River reverberated to Fagan haulage and construction work. Bushman axeman, publican, businessman benefactor and municipal warden: Joe was all these things and more. He was ‘patriarch’ of Waratah, renewing the historic Tasmanian town he called home.

The wild ride: revolutions that shaped Tasmanian black-and-white wilderness photography, National Trust (Tasmania), Launceston, 2008.

The Industrial Revolution drove Tasmanian black-and-white landscape photographers out of town to meet the wild one. The dry plate freed them technically. The illustrated newspaper and the postcard brought them an audience. The mining boom railed them to the bush, and the internal combustion engine crashed them through it. Hiking took them places no shutter had snapped.

Social developments underpinned this charge: ‘muscular’ Christianity, higher living standards, ‘progressive’ nature study and the conservation movement. Wilderness photography raised environmental awareness long before Peter Dombrovskis’s ‘Rock Island Bend’ helped free the Franklin River in 1983. New ideas, new gadgetry, fresh vistas and mountain air fueled the black-and-white brigade’s rush for the bush. From the Sublime of John Watt Beattie to the Skyline Tour of Fred Smithies, The wild ride is their story.

Baron Bischoff: Philosopher Smith and the birth of Tasmanian mining, the author, Perth, Tas, 2004.

For a man whose 44 years had been a lonely climb towards self-worth, the summit of Mount Bischoff must have been a giddy prospect for James ‘Philosopher’ Smith. He presided over a fortune, was embraced by his social ‘betters’, and was hailed as the father and saviour of Tasmania. All because of his discovery of tin in 1871, which triggered a mining boom and invigorated the island’s social, political and economic development. Perhaps there was some truth in contemporary depictions of one man’s journey into darkness which led to light.

A peopled frontier: the European heritage of the Tarkine, Circular Head Council, Smithton, 2009.

A peopled frontier explores two centuries of European use of an area known as the Tarkine, that is, the catchments of the Arthur and Pieman Rivers in north-western and western Tasmania. Chapters deal with European exploration, mining, droving and agistment, recreational and commercial fishing, hunting, transport, the timber industry, bushwalking, photography, off-road driving, canoeing, kayaking and rafting.

A view to Cradle: a history of Tasmania’s Forth River high country, the author, Canberra, 1998.

The Cradle Mountain ‘wilderness’ is famous throughout the world. However, until now the story of Cradle and its surrounds has not been told. A view to Cradle is the story of the Forth River high country, peopled by highland pioneers such as Henry Hellyer, James ‘Philosopher’ Smith and Gustav Weindorfer. The account ranges from clashes between the Aborigines and Europeans during the period of white exploration, through the grazing, hunting, mining and timber industries, to the advent of tourism and the development of the national park. Richly illustrated with the work of outstanding early Tasmanian photographers, A view to Cradle captures the life and the landscape of this wild region.

Reports, articles and papers (from 2005)

‘The tin man: George Renison Bell, Tasmanian mineral prospector’,, Journal of Australasian Mining History, vol.14, October 2016, pp.61–76.

‘The Cornwall of the antipodes’: Josiah Rabling and the ‘Cornish’ tin boom at Mount Heemskirk, Tasmania, 1881–84’,, Journal of Australasian Mining History, vol.15, October 2017.

‘Shearing the Waratah: ‘Cornish’ tin recovery on the Arthur River system, 1878–1903’,, Journal of Australasian Mining History, vol.15, October 2017.

‘”The Broken Hill of Tasmania”: the rise and fall of the 13-Mile silver-lead field, western Tasmania’, Journal of Australasian Mining History, vol.13, October 2015, pp.102–10.

‘Into the wild: the wiles of wilderness photographers’, in Into the wild: wilderness photography in Tasmania, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, 2013, pp.12‒21.

‘Murray, Hugh Mervyn (1906‒1982)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol.18, Melbourne University Press, 2012, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/murray-hugh-mervyn-15080

"They call me ‘Wildcat”: William Aylett (1863–1952), career Tasmanian bushman’, Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, vol.59, no.3, December 2012, pp.203–28 (this story has been reprinted in the book Mountain men).

‘An island within an island: the maritime/riverine culture of Tasmania’s Pieman River goldfield 1877–85’, Journal of Australasian Mining History, vol.10, October 2012, pp.55–71.

‘The original Gordon-below-Franklin dispute: Beattie, BHP and the Marble Cliffs’, ACKMA Journal, no.86, March 2012, pp.22–28. http://waratah.vpweb.com.au/upload/Gordon%20Below%20Franklin.pdf

‘A cup of tea with your cave, madam?: cave tourism as a cottage industry at Mole Creek 1894‒1928’, ACKMA Journal, no.85, 2011, pp.7–16. http://waratah.vpweb.com.au/upload/a%20cup%20of%20tea%20with%20your%20cave.pdf

‘Dan Pickett: pioneer cave guide’; ‘A cup of tea with your cave, madam?: cave tourism as a cottage industry at Mole Creek 1894‒1928’; ‘”It is an alluvial soil and capable of being drained”: the perilous survival of Dismal Swamp’. These three papers were included in the Proceedings of the Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association Conference (Ulverstone: May 2011).

‘Theophilus Jones: Tasmania through Anglo-Indian eyes in the 1880s and 1890s’, Proceedings of the Launceston Historical Society Symposium: the Indian connection with Tasmania (Launceston: 2011), pp.51–74. http://waratah.vpweb.com.au/upload/theophilus%20jones%20paper.pdf

'Observation and the amateur geologist: the success of ‘self-culture’ in Thomas Hainsworth’s exploration of the Mersey‒Don coalfield, Tasmania’ Journal of Australasian Mining History, vol.9, September 2011, pp.54–73.

'Richness and prosperity: the life of WR Bell, Tasmanian mineral prospector', Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, vol.57, no.3, December 2010, pp.204‒36. http://waratah.vpweb.com.au/upload/wr%20bell%20paper.pdf

‘Paddy Hartnett – Tasmanian frontiersman’, Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, vol.57, no.2, August 2010, pp.80‒104 (with Simon Cubit: this story has been reprinted in the book Mountain men).

‘Dolcoath of the Antipodes: Tasmania's Mt Bischoff tin mine', Mining perspectives: Proceedings of the 8th International Mining History Congress (Redruth, Cornwall: 2009), pp.145‒53. http://waratah.vpweb.com.au/upload/Dolcoath%20of%20the%20Antipodes.pdf

'White knuckles in the underworld: the wild days of the Tasmanian Caverneering Club', Proceedings of the Australasian Karst and Cave Management Association Conference (Margaret River: 2009). (with Arthur Clarke: the same paper appeared in ACKMA Journal, March 2010, pp.35‒42.)

'Pen-pushers with pans: 20th-century Tasmanian osmiridium mining', Mining history: Papers and Proceedings of the NAMHO Conference (Matlock, Derbyshire: 2009), vol.17, no.4, Winter 2009, pp.35‒60. http://waratah.vpweb.com.au/upload/osmiridium.pdf

'The summit of our ambitions: Cradle Mountain in the highland bushwalks of William Dubrelle Weston', Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, vol.56, no.4, December 2009, pp.207‒24. http://waratah.vpweb.com.au/upload/Summit%20of%20our%20ambition.pdf

'Bert Nichols — hunter, highland guide and pioneer ranger', Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, March 2009, vol.56 no.1, March 2009, pp.81‒96 (with Simon Cubit: this story has been reprinted in the book Mountain men).

Booming Tasmania: how the Anson/Beattie photographic studio sold the island and itself 1880‒1901, 2008 (a report on research conducted under the terms of a State Library of Tasmania Research Fellowship).

'Beguiling the backblocks: travelling entertainers in rural northern Tasmania during the Victorian era', Papers and Proceedings of the Launceston Historical Society Symposium: Rural life in northern Tasmania (Launceston: 2007), pp.10‒21.

“‘Ozone-whetted appetites and hearts devoid of care”: cruising to Caveland in 19th-century Tasmania’ (presented at 2007 Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association Conference, Buchan, Victoria).

Celebrating a century of Britton Timbers: Tasmania’s blackwood dynasty, Britton Timbers, Smithton, 2007.

‘Mining comes to town: the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Company and the tin trade’, Papers and Proceedings of the Launceston Historical Society Symposium: It’s a busy place: Launceston from settlement to city (Launceston: 2006), pp.51‒73. http://waratah.vpweb.com.au/upload/smelter.pdf

From the sublime to the skyline: some factors in the development of Tasmanian black and white wilderness photography, 2006 (a report on research conducted under the terms of a State Library of Tasmania Research Fellowship).

‘Hartnett, Patrick Joseph (Paddy) (1876‒1944)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, supplementary vol., 2005, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hartnett-patrick-joseph-paddy-12967