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To Lake St Clair with car and camera

Starting out from the Ouse River in the Hupmobile, 1914-15 trip. Ray McClinton photo from the Weekly Courier, 28 January 1915, p.18.

It was the first motor trip to Lake St Clair. In 1915 pioneering motor tourers Ray and Edith McClinton mounted a two-week expedition from Launceston to the highland lake, with ‘Nina’, social pages and women’s editor of the Weekly Courier newspaper, as their guest. The Hupmobile party, towing an additional 120 kg of motor boat engine and luggage, battled rocks, ruts, rain and button grass up the Derwent Valley, breaking their trip at Ouse, the Ellises’ house near the Dee River, Weeding’s at Marlborough and Pearce’s at the Clarence River.[1]

McClinton, a San Francisco dentist who with his wife lived in Launceston 1904–28, would soon become one of Tasmania’s great tourism ‘boosters’.[2] Like fellow Launceston rev-heads Stephen Spurling III, Fred Smithies and HJ King, McClinton worshipped both nature and technology. He wanted to crash deep into the highlands, breaking down the physical and virtual isolation with carburettors and cameras. He was also imbued with fervour for worthy objects and the nineteenth-century tradition of public education that made him a consummate lantern slide lecturer on anything from x-raying teeth to colour photography.[3] Soon he would turn those skills to promoting Tasmania’s scenic wonders. Visiting Lake St Clair was one of the foundation stones of his eventual campaign in support of plans for a Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair national park.[4]

The Hup party at the government log cabin, Cynthia Bay, Lake St Clair, 1914-15 trip, with the unmistakable figure of Paddy Hartnett closest to the camera. Ray McClinton photo from the Weekly Courier, 28 January 1915, p.18.
The motorboat and Paddy Hartnett in the lake, 1914-15 trip. Ray McClinton photo from the Weekly Courier, 28 January 1915, p.18.

Already there was rudimentary infrastructure at the lake. The Hup party took advantage of the government-built three-room log cabin at Cynthia Bay. On foot at last they crossed the Cuvier River on a rustic bridge. McClinton attached his engine to the boat at the lake, enabling communication with the Perrin party —a pedestrian party—camped near the Narcissus at the northern end of the lake. Highland guide Paddy Hartnett had led them to Lake St Clair via the Mersey River.[5] ‘Nina’ marvelled at the reflections in the Narcissus River and the gambolling of a platypus. She made even the ‘perfume of petrol’ mingle poetically with the ‘sweet scent of the woods’, as the first propeller churned the waters of Lake St Clair. A storm disrupted the return journey down the lake but, with the aid of axe, saw, lamp and candles, McClinton soon fashioned ‘Nina’ a comfortable bower in the forest:

‘Imagine myrtle trees towering over a hundred feet high, and their branches interlaced, so that only patches of sky could be seen above, and only glimpses of the lake between. Then picture tree-ferns all around, and green moss for a carpet. Add to his a vision of remnants of fallen trees of age untold, coated with moss inches thick, like green plush. The imagine crystal streams trickling down the mountain side … The whole scene was fairyland …’[6]

But who was ‘Nina’? She was an outstanding journalist called Kate Farrell, better known by her pseudonyms ‘Nina’ and ‘Sylvia’. Her literary career spanned 33 years and included both Launceston dailies, the Daily Telegraph and the Examiner, plus their respective weekend newspapers, the Colonist and the Weekly Courier.[7] The scale of her anonymity can be tested quite easily by searching the Trove digital database: during her literary career c1894–1927 the name Kate Farrell has only 7 hits, while ‘Woman’s World’ by ‘Sylvia’ occurs 1933 times.[8] ‘Woman’s World’ was generally frocks, recipes and home hints. In 1914 Farrell published her 96-page Sylvia’s cookery book.[9] During World War One she turned her attention to bringing comfort to those at the front, and she was also a ‘booster’, penning tourist guide The charm of the north in 1922.[10] Farrell had been motor touring with the McClintons for years, having accompanied them to Lake Sorell in their Winton Four and on Edith McClinton’s one-woman non-stop run from Launceston to Richmond in the Hupmobile. [11] Farrell preceded Ray McClinton as a tourism ‘booster’, and at Lake St Clair she quickly got into her stride:

‘The beauty of the scene is inexpressible. One can imagine the crowds of tourists who would visit Lake St Clair if the road were made. A number of small chalets built, with a caretaker in charge, and a motor boat available for the use of visitors, would help matters along considerably. I hope it will not be long before such dreams come true’.[12]

Stuck in a wash-out near Ellendale, 1916-17 trip, King and McClinton in action. HJ King photo courtesy of Daisy Glennie.
The Hupmobile, containing the two ladies, and McClinton in the ‘Baby Grand’ Chevrolet, posed as if tackling the corded track, 1916-17 trip. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.
‘The darkroom at Lake St Clair’, HJ King despairs over the photographic facilities, 1916-17 trip. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

 

The 1916-17 party at Bushy Park, Sir Philip Fysh with the white beard, the McClintons at centre, with Kate Farrell fourth from left. Bushwalker and park administrator WJ Savigny is second from left. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

The McClintons and Farrell repeated their Lake St Clair excursion two years later, this time with the established amateur photographer HJ King. While King drove McClinton’s faithful old Hupmobile (registration number 586), the dentist was at the helm of his new ‘Baby Grand’ Chevrolet (number 4465). Both vehicles survived—but, in the true tradition of motor touring, it was a near thing for much of the way. The government accommodation house had been destroyed by fire in the intervening two years. However, rather than repeat herself, Farrell minimised her tourism boosting and concentrated on describing the route taken and the social pleasantries of a visit to former premier Sir Philip Fysh’s Bushy Park estate.[13] The real reporter was King. McClinton deferred to the superior shutterbug, allowing him to be the official tour photographer, and many King photos from this trip appeared in the Weekly Courier during 1917, including his light-hearted ‘Lake St Clair Darkroom’.[14] King’s keen eye captured the logistical difficulties of the corrugated track, with block and tackle deployed near Ellendale, some pick and shovel work on the Sandhill at Lawrenny and rescue by a bullock team near Derwent Bridge. McClinton also appears to have had a long stint with a hand saw clearing a fallen tree. One of the most interesting images from the trip was McClinton, the ex-patriate American, recalling his military training by posing with a gun upon his shoulder, as if guarding the beauty of Lake St Clair.[15] How far they were from the European War (King was a conscientious objector, McClinton effectively neutral), yet the connection remained even here.[16]

Ray McClinton posed militarily in front of Mount Ida, 1916-17. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

‘To Lake St Clair with car and camera’ became one of first outings of the McClinton–King lantern lecturing team.[17] Later, with Fred Smithies, they would add Cradle Mountain and the Pelion region to their lecturing repertoire. At her retirement in 1927 Kate Farrell was ‘Launceston’s senior press woman’ and the last of the Weekly Courier’s original staff. [18] The McClintons were there to farewell her, just ahead of their departure from Tasmania.[19] Farrell died in 1933, after a long battle with illness, leaving only King to enjoy the road they had craved, the ‘missing link’—forerunner of the Lyell Highway—between Marlborough and Queenstown.[20] By then Lake St Clair was well on its way to becoming a tourism hub.

[1] See ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘A trip to Lake St Clair’, Weekly Courier, 21 January 1915, p.29; 28 January 1915, pp.27–28; 4 February 1915, pp.28 and 29; and 11 February 1915, p.28.

[2] Edith McClinton actually left Tasmania for Honolulu in June 1927 (‘Social notes’, Daily Telegraph, 22 June 1927, p.2), Ray MClinton joining her there in November 1928 (‘Dr Ray McClinton’, Mercury, 8 November 1928, p.11).

[3] See, for example, ‘X-rays and the teeth’, Examiner, 18 June 1925, p.5.; and ‘Local and general’, Daily Telegraph, 5 July 1923, p.4. For Launceston rev-head photographers generally, see Nic Haygarth, The wild ride: revolutions that shaped Tasmanian black and white wilderness photography, National Trust of Australia (Tasmania), Launceston, 2008.

[4] McClinton and Smithies had visited the Du Can Range area in 1913, and may have visited Lake St Clair at that time, but that was a pedestrian trip.

[5] See ‘The adventures of Paddy’s Gang: an account of a Perrin family trip to Lake St Clair guided by Hartnett over the Christmas–New Year period in 1914–1915’, diary in possession of Bessie Flood.

[6] ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘A trip to Lake St Clair’, Weekly Courier, 28 January 1915, p.28.

[7] ‘Miss K Farrell’s death’, Examiner, 4 July 1933, p.9. Thanks to Ross Smith for identifying ‘Nina’.

[8] The Weekly Courier is not yet indexed on Trove, making it impossible to search on ‘Social notes’ by ‘Nina’. Propriety of the time contributed to this disparity, insisting that she be referred to simply as ‘Miss Farrell’ throughout her life.

[9] ‘Social notes’, Daily Telegraph, 25 May 1927, p.2. The full details are K Farrell, Sylvia’s cookery book: tested recipes and items of interest, Launceston, 1914.

[10] K Farrell, The charm of the north, Launceston City Council, Launceston, 1922.

[11] ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘Camping at Interlaken’, Weekly Courier, 21 January 1909, p.29; ‘Exhaust’, ‘Motor notes’, Daily Telegraph, 9 November 1911, p.11.

[12] ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘A trip to Lake St Clair’, Weekly Courier, 11 February 1915, p.28.

[13] ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘A trip to Lake St Clair’, Weekly Courier, 11 January 1917, p.27. The trip was also written up by ‘Spark’ (Charles George Saul), ‘Motoring’, Examiner, 13 January 1917, p.4. Thanks to Ken Young for identifying ‘Spark’.

[14] See Weekly Courier, 11 January 1917, p.17; 18 January 1917, p.18; 25 January 1917, p.17; 1 February 1917, p.17; 15 February 1917, p.17; 22 March 1917, p.20; 5 April, pp.17, 20 and 21; 31 May, p.21; 13 September, p.17; 18 October 1917, p.17; and 1 November 1917 (Christmas issue), p.22.

[15] Ray McClinton performed military training 1900–02 in California, film no.981549, MF4:2, National Guard Registers v.61, 1st Infantry, 2nd Brigade, Enlisted Men, 1883–1902, California, Military Registers, 1858–1923.

[16] McClinton supported the Allied war effort, but America did not enter World War One until April 1917.

[17] See ‘Spark’ (Charles George Saul), ‘Motoring’, Examiner, 3 February 1917, p.4; ‘Plug’, ‘Motor notes’, Daily Telegraph, 13 February 1917, p.6.

[18] ‘Journalist honoured’, Examiner, 24 May 1927, p.7, ‘Social notes’, Daily Telegraph, 25 May 1927, p.2.

[19] The McClintons’ names were accidentally omitted from the Examiner’s story of this event. See the correction, Examiner, 25 May 1927, p.7.

[20] ‘Miss K Farrell’s death’, Examiner, 4 July 1933, p.9.

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Dogging in the snow near Lake St Clair

A hunter’s log cabin in the Cuvier Valley (Fred Smithies photo, from the Weekly Courier, 3 July 1929, p.27). From 1927 the Cuvier Valley was part of a game sanctuary. This was not the first time that Smithies, a member of the Cradle Mountain Reserve Board, had photographed an illegal hunting hut in the Lake St Clair Reserve.

In 1906 a newspaper contributor calling himself ‘The Rover’ wrote an account of four months’ hunting in a mountain valley near Lake St Clair. The party of four was from Queenstown. They started for the lake through heavy rain in April, each member bearing a pack weighing 23 kg up the Linda Track, precursor of the Lyell Highway—while a mule carried the rest, a mere 141 kg! First stop was the ‘cockatoo hut’, which at the time was a well-known shelter at the Franklin River.[1] Next day, high on Mount Arrowsmith, the grave of John Largan, who had frozen to death there in 1900, served to warn them of the dangers of the highlands.[2] Arriving at Lake St Clair on the second evening after their long tramp, they spent two days exploring the surrounds before settling on a ‘beautiful valley’ 11 km from the lake. Over four days the party built a log hut with a bark roof as their base.

Then, instead of laying down their snare lines, they ‘waited with feverish impatience for the first fall of snow’. Unleash the hounds! ‘The Rover’ knew what many hunters knew: that in heavy snow wallabies were easy prey for dogs:

‘As we had been at the business before, no time was lost in getting to work, two of us going out and two remaining in camp every alternate day … The same remark applies to the dogs, for they soon knock up if the work is not divided between them. The best plan is to take four dogs at a time, for if the kangaroos [Bennett’s wallabies] are plentiful the dogs will kill faster than a man can skin them, it being a common occurrence to have four or five killed within as many minutes. The fastest kangaroo falls a victim to the slowest dog when pursued through three feet of snow’.

The two men back at camp were kept busy pegging out skins, fetching wood for the fire and cooking supper. No mention was made of a skin shed—but the existence of one is implied by the volume of skins obtained and the duration of the expedition. Mouldy or frozen skins were worthless. They needed to be cleaned and kept dry. The skin shed, a unique Tasmanian invention, was developed at about the beginning of the twentieth century. Its inception was one of the reasons for an escalation in the Tasmanian fur industry, enabling longer stints and greater, more valuable hauls in the highlands where possum furs in particular grew thicker.

After one month the mule was revisited at the Clarence River, and divested of its load—which presumably it had not borne in the interim. The snow was then two feet deep, and in June it got deeper, with metre-long icicles draping the eaves of the hut. Now the ‘rough-coated mongrel’ dog showed his superiority to the purebred, with wallabies being slaughtered in all directions.

One day the hunters found the tracks of a ‘hyena, or Tasmanian tiger’. The dogs took up the scent

‘and in a few minutes discovered the enemy. Their angry growls brought us on the scene, when it was plainly to be seen that the tiger intended to fight to the bitter end. With a cry of encouragement to the dogs we urged them on, and immediately they were engaged in mortal combat with their fierce opponent. The struggle was a long one, but at last the combined strength of the four dogs began to tell, and the battle was over. We found on examination that the tiger was one of the largest of its class, measuring 5 ft 6 in [1.69 m] from the end of his nose to the tip of his tail’.

‘The Rover’ claimed a haul of 91 dozen (1092) wallaby skins—and a weight loss of from 15 to 22 kg per man.[3] The mule, not the men, would have borne the skins back to Queenstown. Providing they were in good condition, they would have fetched something in the region of £80–£140 on the fur market, or an average of about £20–£35 per man.[4] While this would have been a very useful income supplement, better money was to be had in an open season on brush possum.

How credible is this anonymous tale? Let’s start with the hunting season. No year is given, but the events described, if they are real, must have taken place in the period 1901–05. Which season is it likely to be? Throughout the period 1901–05 the season for wallaby was four months, 1 April to 31 July, with closed season for possums in 1903 and 1904 and a one-month season (July) in 1901, 1902 and 1905.[5] So wallabies would have been the focus for many hunters during these seasons, and almost without exception in 1903 and 1904. As for the very heavy snow falls, there was plenty of snow at Cradle Mountain in July 1905 when hunter Bert Hanson disappeared in a blizzard. Hanson and his mate Tom Jones were also using dogs to hunt down wallabies.[6]

A map showing Cuvier Valley hunting huts visited during a police raid on the Lake St Clair Game Sanctuary in 1927. From AA580/1/1 (Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office).

What was the ‘beautiful valley about 10 miles long by two in width, and bounded on each side by high ranges extending as far as the eye could reach, rising almost perpendicularly from the valley below’? Allowing for a little poetic licence, it could be the Cuvier Valley west of Mount Olympus, where hunters like Bert and Dick Nichols operated two decades later.[7]

What about the thylacine: was the carcass submitted for a government thylacine bounty? Plenty of applications were made for the bounty in the spring of the years 1901–05, but without knowing the origin of each application it is very difficult to track down ‘The Rover’ or his mates from Queenstown.[8] Given the value of the wallaby skins they obtained, carting a single thylacine carcass back to Queenstown in order to submit it for a £1 bounty may not have been a priority for them anyway.

In short, the story is plausible. I hope there are further missives from ‘The Rover’, giving more insight into the task of feeding the world’s craving for furs.

[1] See, for example, JW Beattie, ‘Out west with salmon fry’, Mercury, 18 February 1903, p.6; ‘Alluvial gold’, Mercury, 25 August 1935, p.8.

[2] See ‘Mount Arrowsmith tragedy’, Mount Lyell Standard and Strahan Gazette, 3 September 1900, p.2.

[3] ‘The Rover’, ‘A Tasmanian winter camp’, Weekly Courier, 26 May 1906, p.37.

[4] In August 1901 ‘kangaroo’ skins free from shot were fetching £0-1-6 to £0-1-8 each (‘Commercial’, Mercury, 17 August 1901, p.2); in August 1905 ‘kangaroo’ fetched from £0-1-11 to £0-2-6 (‘Commercial’, Examiner, 12 August 1905, p.4). My calculations assume that all the skins obtained were Bennett’s wallabies, when it is likely that some were pademelons. ‘The Rover’ does not specify.

[5] Editorial, Daily Telegraph, 30 July 1901, p.2; ‘To correspondents’, Zeehan and Dundas Herald, 31 July 1902, p.2; ‘Current topics’, Examiner, 31 March 1903, p.4; ‘Warning to possum poachers’, Examiner, 19 June 1903, p.6; ‘To correspondents’, Examiner, 13 April 1904, p.4; ‘Kangaroos and opossums’, Daily Telegraph, 3 May 1905, p.2.

[6] ‘The Tramp’ (Dan Griffin), ‘The mountain mystery’, Daily Telegraph, 5 August 1905, p.6.

[7] See Gerald Propsting to the Secretary for Public Works, 4 August 1927, file AA580/1/1(Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office [afterwards TAHO]); ‘Lake St Clair Reserve: allegations of poaching’, Mercury, 26 May 1927, p.10.

[8] Government thylacine bounty payments in the years 1888—1909 are recorded in LSD247/1/2 and LSD247/1/3 (TAHO).

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Up the Cradle Mountain: Peregrinator and pals climb Cradle in 1891

William Dubrelle Weston, aka 'Peregrinator'. Photo from the Launceston Family Album, courtesy of the Friends of the Launceston LINC.
William Dubrelle Weston, aka ‘Peregrinator’. Photo from the Launceston Family Album, courtesy of the Friends of the Launceston LINC.
Ernest Milton Law, Weston's hiking and legal partner. Photo from the Launceston Family Album, courtesy of the Friends of the Launceston LINC.
Ernest Milton Law, Weston’s hiking and legal partner. Photo from the Launceston Family Album, courtesy of the Friends of the Launceston LINC.

 

In March 1886 the pastoralist Alfred Archer of Palmerston, south of Cressy, guided two Launceston schoolboys across the Central Plateau through poorly charted country to Lake St Clair.[1] This was the first in a series of extraordinary highland excursions for sixteen-year-old William Dubrelle Weston (1869–1948) and fifteen-year-old Ernest Milton Law (1870–1909). Later adventures would include probably the first bushwalk to the Walls of Jerusalem, visits to Great Lake and Mount Barrow, and the first two tourist trips to Cradle Mountain—‘the summit of our ambition’.[2]

 

On most of these expeditions they would be joined by two chums they knew from the Launceston Grammar School, the brothers Richard Ernest Smith (1864–1942), known as Ernest or ‘Old Crate’, and Alfred Valentine ‘Moody’ Smith (1869–1950). Weston’s letters from the period show the friends’ high-spirited camaraderie, and how hiking relieved the stresses of study, career, faith, self-discipline and social life during the transition from adolescence to manhood. Bushwalking was already popular in Tasmania, with accounts of highland excursions appearing regularly in newspapers.

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake, as Peregrinator's party would have seen it, without tourist infrastructure. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.
Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake, as Peregrinator’s party would have seen them, without tourist infrastructure. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

Why did they choose Cradle Mountain in 1888? The peak received few visitors. No ascents are recorded between James Sprent’s trigonometrical survey in about 1854 and that by Dan Griffin and John McKenna in March 1882.[3] The discovery of gold on the Five Mile Rise on the western side of the Forth River gorge had increased traffic towards Cradle on the old Van Diemen’s Land Company Track, but the peak itself remained more remote from Launceston than even Lake St Clair was.

 

However, the Launceston Grammar old boys were now confident, independent bushwalkers. The Smith brothers were in charge of the commissariat. Alf was the hunter of the party, armed with a rifle. Currawongs and green parrots were landed on the way to Cradle Mountain, although a snake despatched by two weapons was left off the menu. Porridge, bread and butter, johnny cakes and beef fed the party at other times. Water proved so scarce that on the Five Mile Rise (near today’s Mail Tree or Post Office Tree on the Cradle Mountain Road) it was squeezed out of moss, a decoction that not even the addition of the emergency brandy and whisky could make palatable.

 

The party attempted to reach Cradle not by today’s tourist route across the Middlesex Plains, then south to Pencil Pine Creek, but by the direct route which took them into the deep, scrubby Dove River and Campbell River gorges. This was the hunters’ route to Cradle, but Weston’s party soon lost their way. With supplies dwindling on their fifth day out, there was nothing for it but to turn for home. Weston, who had taken to writing under the pseudonym of ‘Peregrinator’ or ‘Mr Peregrinator’, had been tantalised by Cradle’s ethereal heights:

 

‘Before us rose the imposing mass of the mountain; to our right was another stupendous gorge; and high above it and us a splendid eagle sailed in clam serenity, above all the ups and downs of terrestrial life and toil.’[4]

 

Ernest Smith wrote of the same vista months late: ‘I have that scene as vividly before me now while I am writing as if I were there, and I shall have until I die’.[5] There was no question but that they would return.

 

Two summers passed before ‘the old Company’ could reassemble, and they did it without ‘Moody’ Smith. ‘At last Mr Peregrinator and two friends got loose from their respective occupations’, Weston opened his second Cradle Mountain narrative. Infrastructure had improved in the three years since their last Cradle adventure. The Mole Creek branch railway, a new Mersey River bridge and the Forth River cage (flying fox) expedited travel. For a second time Fields’ Gads Hill stockman Harry Stanley doubled as their official weighbridge. That this time their packs averaged about 49 lbs (22 kg) each, compared to 43.5 lbs (20 kg) on the previous trip, suggests heavier provisioning in an effort to secure their goal. Extra cocoa, ship’s biscuit, porridge, rice and tea probably came in handy—as did bushranger Martin Cash’s autobiography—when time lost to rain extended the trip to thirteen days.

 

The four chose the easier route via Middlesex Station, which proved a useful staging-post, and provided a stockman to guide them onwards. Like other early Cradle climbers, Peregrinator’s party mistook the more obvious north-eastern end of the mountain for the summit. They then had to dodge the series of intervening spires to reach the true summit at the south-western end, where they found the timber remains of James Sprent’s trigonometrical station.[6] Standing on Cradle’s pinnacle—the ‘summit of our ambitions’—in perfect stillness, with the island spread out below him, Weston struck a melancholic note:

 

‘We had been seeking grandeur of nature and now we beheld its plaintive softness … Sound, there was none. Yonder stood the frowning buttresses of the mountain … many a glistening silver line revealed a stream plunging in headlong fury down the distant slopes, and there asleep in the very arms of nature herself lay a tiny lakelet [probably Lake Wilks], whose breast was sacred e’en to the evening zephyr. How comes it that so much of this world’s intensest scenes of beauty are set in a minor key?’

 

Sadly, Weston recognised that the party’s hiking career ended then and there on the summit. Now aged from 20 to 26 years, the men would soon sacrifice their youth and their physical prime to adult responsibilities. Yet Weston’s usual picaresque banter, historical footnotes and topical commentary enlivened their extraordinary ‘final push’ home—about 45 km from Middlesex Station to Sheffield by foot in a day. Peregrinator’s romantic description of the jewels of the night guiding his descent from the Mount Claude saddle must have raised eyebrows among those who knew the place only for labour with pack-horse and bullock team on their way to the gold mines on the upper Forth River. After alighting from the train in Launceston, the trio made straight for the photographer’s studio and there immortalised ‘the old Co’s’ swansong. ‘The closing scene was enacted some days later when we called for our proofs’, Peregrinator concluded.

 

‘On our appearance we were some time making our photographer perceive that we were the same individuals, who had called in with the black billies and aspiring beared a few days before. And now the Cradle trip like many like it remains a please reminiscence of the past and a joy for the future.’[7]

William Dubrelle Weston (2nd from left) with guide Bert Nichols (3rd from left) before setting out from Waldheim to climb Cradle Mountain in 1933. Fred Smithies photo courtesy of Margaret Carrington.
William Dubrelle Weston (2nd from left) with guide Bert Nichols (3rd from left) before setting out from Waldheim to climb Cradle Mountain in 1933. Fred Smithies photo courtesy of Margaret Carrington.

It is unlikely that Alf ‘Moody’ Smith, who became a Church of England minister in New South Wales, ever stood on the summit of Cradle Mountain. Ernest Law never repeated the adventure, dying, tragically, of typhoid in 1909, aged only 38. Neither Ernest Smith nor Weston renounced hiking altogether, with the former leading boys on mountain treks in his career as a school-teacher. But only Weston returned to the top. In 1933, 45 years after he first tackled Cradle Mountain and now 64 years old, he noted in the Waldheim Chalet visitors’ book at Cradle Valley:

 

‘With thankfulness to God’s goodness it is recorded that WD Weston who led the first Launceston party (late Ernest M Law and Mr Richard Ernest Smith) in December 1890–January 1891 (ascent Jan 2nd 1891) reascended to the trig on the Cradle 28th December 1933’.[8]

 

Ironically, the urban conqueror of Lake St Clair, the Walls of Jerusalem and Cradle Mountain more than four decades earlier, was now led to the summit by Overland Track guide Bert Nichols, a bushman fifteen years his junior. It is fitting that such an early spruiker of highland tourism should return to walk part of the ‘new’ track that popularised the region.

[1] ‘The Tramp’ (WD Weston), ‘About Lake St Clair’, The Paidophone, vol.II, no.7, September 1987, pp.7–8; ‘Shanks’ Ponies’ (WD Weston), ‘A trip to Lake St Clair’, Launceston Examiner, 22 December 1888, p.2.

[2] See Nic Haygarth, “’The summit of our ambition”: Cradle Mountain and the highland bushwalks of William Dubrelle Weston’, Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, vol.56, no.3, December 2009, pp.207–24.

[3] ‘The Tramp’ (Dan Griffin), ‘In the Cradle country’, Tasmanian Mail, 8 February 1897, p.4.

[4] ‘Peregrinator’ (WD Weston), ‘Notes of a trip in the vicinity of the Cradle Mountain’, Colonist, 17 March 1888, p.4.

[5] RE Smith to WD Weston, date illegible, CHS47, 2/55 (Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery [henceforth QVMAG]).

[6] ‘Peregrinator’ (WD Weston), ‘Up the Cradle Mountain: no.3’, Launceston Examiner, 4 March 1891, supplement, p.2.

[7] ‘Peregrinator’ (WD Weston), ‘Up the Cradle Mountain: no.5’, Launceston Examiner, 11 March 1891, supplement, p.1.

[8] Waldheim Visitors’ Book, vol.2, p.8, 1991:MS0004 (QVMAG).