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A tale of two headstones: part one, the Murray brothers of Balfour

The story of Balfour is told by two graves in a highland cemetery in north-western Tasmania. For more than a century, lying side by side, William Murray and Sylvia McArthur have been fixed silently in their interlocking roles in what historian Geoffrey Blainey called the ‘Indian summer’ of Tasmania’s first mining boom. Why did they ever live in this remote place?

They were both casualties of frenzied speculation that Balfour would become a second Mount Lyell copper field. Part one of this story concerns William Wallace Fullarton Murray junior (1861–1912), manager of the Copper Reward (Murrays’ Reward) mine which generated this excitement. He received a fighting pedigree from both parents. William Murray’s paternal grandfather, a captain in the 91st regiment, was reputedly a hero of the Battle of Trafalgar. His father, William Wallace Fullarton Murray senior (1820–94), a Church of England minister, was brought to Tasmania from England to tutor the children of Governor Sir William Dennison, after which he served as chaplain of New Norfolk (St Matthew’s Church) for 39 years. William senior married Augusta Schaw, the sixth daughter of Major Schaw, a police magistrate formerly of the 21st Fusiliers.[1]

Such an impressive lineage demanded a private school education, which young William and his brother Thomas Charles Murray (1862–1938) received, but their upbringing, along with that of their six sisters, was relatively modest.[2] Although Tom was a mad-keen prospector, it was actually their sister Kate who led the Murray brothers to what became known as the Copper Reward mine near Mount Balfour, far from their home town of New Norfolk. Kate married William Wilbraham Ford, a Circular Head farmer, who grub-staked a prospector, Frederick Henry Smith.[3] Smith discovered copper on Tin Creek near Mount Balfour, which had been a sparsely-visited alluvial tin field for two decades. In 1901 Tom Murray helped him peg the discovery and applied for a reward claim under the Mining Act (1900). Tom and William Murray, Fred Smith and William Ford took a quarter share each in the mine, Ford apparently helping to finance and promote its development.[4] The remote claim was not surveyed until 1905, by which time Smith’s whereabouts were unknown. The lease was finally issued in 1907 to Tom Murray and in trust for others interested. Having abandoned their unprofitable gold leases at Woody Hill near Queenstown, the Murray brothers worked their reward claim continuously from February 1907.[5] To relieve financial pressure a fifth share in the mine (rumoured to be Robert Sticht, general manager of the Mount Lyell Company) was introduced.[6]

The Murrays built a farm—now known as Kaywood—with an extensive vegetable garden near the hazardous port of Whales Head (Temma). Six-horse wagons delivered ore from the mine to the brothers’ store shed at Temma, awaiting the fortnightly visits of the auxiliary ketch Gladys which bore it to market. Without even a jetty, loading and offloading at Temma involved a rowboat meeting a dray driven into the water.[7]

Tom and William Murray (centre at back), with Thomas Bather (TB) Moore seated at front on the left, Balfour, 7 November 1909. The others include Speedy, Dunne, surveyor KM Harrisson, and Inspector Harrison Langford (see TB Moore diaries, TMAG).
Tom and William Murray (centre at back), with Thomas Bather (TB) Moore seated at front on the left, Balfour, 7 November 1909. The others include Speedy, Dunne, surveyor KM Harrisson, and Inspector Harrison Langford (see TB Moore diaries, TMAG).

By the spring of 1909, investors were agog at the 1100 tons of ore, averaging about 30% copper, which the Murrays had reportedly dispatched. In addition, three or four times as much high grade ore was said to have been ‘at grass’ on the property. In October 1909 a report circulated that the brothers had sold the Copper Reward mine for £50,000 and an interest in a company with a big working capital—a claim the Murrays denied.[8] Meanwhile a township named after nearby Mount Balfour developed.

The workforce of the Copper Reward mine, with William Murray centre at front, and engine driver William McArthur seated to his left. Photo courtesy of Edie McArthur.
The workforce of the Copper Reward mine, with William Murray centre at front, and engine driver William McArthur seated to his left. Photo courtesy of Edie McArthur.

The entire mining field appears to have been invigorated by developments at the Copper Reward. Mount Lyell was stamped all over the speculation boom that followed. The Central Mount Balfour Company, with Mt Lyell Co directors Aloysius Kelly and Herman Schlapp in prominent roles, was floated in Melbourne with £25,000 subscribed capital. The adjoining Balfour Blocks Company had Mount Lyell supremo Bowes Kelly as chairman of directors. Meanwhile, veteran prospector and explorer Thomas Bather (TB) Moore dug away at the Norfolk Ranges at the behest of his boss, Robert Sticht.[9] In May 1910 the first sod was turned on the Stanley to Balfour Railway, a farcical grab at timber and hydro-electric power concessions by the Melbourne promoters of the Mount Balfour Copper Mines NL, now styling themselves the Mount Balfour Mining and Railway Company—mimicking the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company.[10]

Hazel and William Murray in front of their 'mansion' at Balfour, 1911, with daughter Jean. Marital bliss or a façade for the photographer? Photo 1997:P:5591, QVMAG, Launceston.
Hazel and William Murray in front of their ‘mansion’ at Balfour, 1911, with daughter Jean. Marital bliss or a façade for the photographer? Photo 1997:P:5591, QVMAG, Launceston.

It must have been tempting for the Murray brothers to start living the good life that the speculation promised, and which could easily have landed them in debt. Forty-eight-year-old William took an eighteen-year-old wife, Melbourne-born Hazel, née Myers (1891–1973).[11] Married in Sydney, the couple honeymooned first at Jenolan Caves, then in England while their Balfour home was built.[12] The Circular Head Chronicle noted that the house, with its concrete double chimneys, would provide ‘a magnificent contrast to our present canvas and paling humpies, to say nothing of those described by a recent visitors as being made of opened out sardine tins’.[13] TB Moore referred to the Murrays’ house as ‘the mansion’.[14] It is possible that Hazel Murray wasn’t quite so impressed with it when, in mid-1911, following on from their antipodean jaunt, William brought his young bride, baby and maid to Balfour via stage coach and the new horse-drawn tramway from Temma.[15] How happy the couple seems in the photo, with Hazel astride her horse, and William clutching their first daughter, Jean Wallace Murray.[16] Did Hazel adjust to frontier living, or did she ‘fly’ back to ‘civilisation’?

The fate of the Murray brothers is a staple of Tasmanian mining folklore, even being the subject of a play.[17] William Murray shot himself in his home at Donald Street, Balfour, in November 1912, reputedly as part of an unfulfilled double suicide pact with his brother Tom.[18] William was a quiet and private man: only he would know why he suicided. In her description of William and Hazel Murray’s wedding, the social writer for the Star newspaper referred to the brothers by their second names, Wallace and Charles: perhaps they had new social pretensions in Sydney. Had the Murrays missed their big chance to sell the mine, had dreams of marriage and riches crashed? It has been claimed that they refused an offer of £30,000 for a mine that ultimately proved a failure.[19] However, it had not failed at the time of William Murray’s death, and the copper price was starting to recover from the 1907 crash. It was sadly appropriate that William’s death was overshadowed by the tragedy of the North Mount Lyell fire, which killed 42 miners.[20]

William Murray bequeathed Hazel his life insurance policy to the value of £250—providing death by suicide was covered. She would not have been able to claim on an accident policy to the same value. She also received half the value of his mining interests, the other half being divided between his brother Tom Murray and others.[21] Perhaps debts absorbed all this and more. In 1913, 22-year-old mother-of-two Hazel was operating a boarding house at Battery Point, Hobart, but later she appears to have returned to her family.[22] Little is known about her life in Sydney. Her second daughter, Mary Fullarton Murray, married in 1937, but the other, Jean, had an unhappy love affair, suing her lover for £1000 in 1942 for breach of marriage contract.[23]

Tom Murray reputedly suffered a mental breakdown after his brother’s suicide, although he was apparently fit enough to walk from Hobart to Balfour to tend William’s grave.[24] Certainly he seems to have led a listless life, returning to Balfour in 1916 and 1920, then selling up his farm at Forest in 1924 with the intention of leaving the state.[25] Tom hunted osmiridium at Adamsfield two years later.[26] Described as having ‘no occupation’ and being ‘late of Roger River’, he died intestate at Latrobe in 1938, aged 75.[27] The Copper Reward mine remains untested at depth.

[1] ‘The Late Rev WWF Murray, MA’, Church News, October 1894, p.156; Whitfield Index (LINC Tasmania, Launceston)

[2] The Tasmanian Pioneers Index records that William Wallace Fullarton Murray senior and Louisa Augusta Schaw married at Richmond, Tasmania, in 1851 and produced five children at New Norfolk, Louisa Augusta Murray (born 1854), Mary Wallace Murray (born 1857), Eleanor Carter Murray (born 1859), then the two boys. William Wallace Fullarton Murray junior’s birth, recorded without given names, was 23 April 1861 (RGD33, 1664/1861). Thomas Charles Murray was born 5 October 1862 (RGD33, 1188/1862). However, the author of ‘The Late Rev WWF Murray, MA’, Church News, October 1894, p.156, records that he was survived by six girls, two of them married, and two unmarried sons.

[3] Valentia Kate (Kate Valencia) Murray (died 1948) married William Wilbraham Ford at Hobart in 1897, registration no.270/1897. For Ford as Smith’s grub-staker, see ‘A Balfour mining case: decision reserved’, Circular Head Chronicle, 10 August 1910, p.2.

[4] For WW Ford as promoter, see ‘Mt Balfour Copper Mines’, Circular Head Chronicle, 15 April 1908, p.2, in which Ford invites the newspaper’s reporter to the mining field as a guest of the Murray brothers.

[5] ‘A Balfour mining case: decision reserved’, Circular Head Chronicle, 10 August 1910, p.2. For William and Tom Murray’s gold leases, see Queenstown Assessment Roll for 1908, Tasmanian Government Gazette, 15 October 1907, p.1504. Tom Murray was then the owner/occupier of a cottage in Peters Street, Queenstown (p.1497). The Tasmanian Post Office Directory for 1907 (p.437) and 1908 (p.439) lists both Murrays as ‘mine owner, Queenstown’, whereas the 1909 edition (p.417) has them both as ‘mine owner, Mt Balfour’.

[6] ‘A Balfour mining case: decision reserved’, Circular Head Chronicle, 10 August 1910, p.2. In 1910 the Court of Mines adjudicated that Smith’s one-fifth share now belonged to Ernest Plummer and James Loftus Wells of Stanley (a one-tenth share each), to each of whom Smith had sold half his interest before he disappeared (‘Murray’s [sic] Reward Mine: Balfour mining action’, Circular Head Chronicle, 31 August 1910, p.2). A Murray brothers appeal to the Supreme Court in 1911 overturned this decision, denying Plummer and Wells any interest in the Murrays’ Copper Reward mine (‘A mining dispute: the Murray Reward claim: judgment for defendants’, Circular Head Chronicle, 3 May 1911, p.2).

[7] ‘Mount Balfour’, Circular Head Chronicle, 13 July 1910, p.3.

[8] ‘Mining’, Mercury, 26 October, p.3; and 4 November 1911, p.2.

[9] See TB Moore diaries for 1908 and 1909, ZM5640 (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery [hereafter TMAG]).

[10] ‘The Balfour Railway: turning the first sod’, Circular Head Chronicle, 10 May 1910, p.2.

[11] ‘Personal’, Circular Head Chronicle, 19 January 1910, p.2.

[12] ‘Social news’, Star (Sydney), 29 January 1910, p.16.

[13] ‘Mount Balfour’, Circular Head Chronicle, 9 February 1910, p.3.

[14] TB Moore diaries, 30 April 1912, ZM5641 (TMAG).

[15] ‘Balfour: general news’, Circular Head Chronicle, 30 August 1911, p.2.

[16] Did the maid hand the baby over to her father so that she could take the photo?

[17] The play is Heather Nimmo’s ‘Murrays’ Reward: a play in two acts’.

[18] The Circular Head Chronicle (‘Deaths at Balfour’, 6 November 1912, p.2) reported merely that Murray had ‘died suddenly’. The coroner found that Murray died of a self-inflicted ‘gunshot wound to the head … while of unsound mind’ (see SC195-1-82-13112, [TAHO]).

[19] E Payne, ‘Balfour mine’, Examiner, 19 March 1951, p.2.

[20] ‘Deaths at Balfour’, Mercury, 7 November 1912, p.4; death notice, Mercury, 20 November 1912, p.1.

[21] Will no.9043, AD960-1-34 (TAHO).

[22] The Hobart Assessment Roll for 1913 places her as a tenant in De Witt Street, Battery Point (Tasmanian Government Gazette, 8 December 1913, p.2426).

[23] ‘Out of town news’, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 March 1937, p.3; ‘Woman to receive £1000 damages’, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 September 1942, p.7.

[24] For Tom’s reputed mental breakdown see, for example, Kerry Pink and Annette Ebdon, Beyond the ramparts: a bicentennial history of Circular Head, Tasmania, Circular Head Bicentennial History Group, Smithton, 1988, p.249. For Tom’s return visits to tend William’s grave, see Joan Foss, Memories of the Marrawah Sand Track (held by Circular Head Heritage Centre, Smithton). Tom Murray reportedly asked to be relieved of the management of the Copper Reward in 1913 because of ill health (‘The Balfour field’, Circular Head Chronicle, 17 December 1913, p.2).

[25] ‘Mining’, Mercury, 13 June 1916, p.3; ‘Personal’, Circular Head Chronicle, 30 June 1920, p.3; advert, Advocate, 3 May 1924, p.8.

[26] ‘Forest’, Circular Head Chronicle, 14 July 1926, p.5.

[27] ‘Deaths’, Mercury, 16 August 1938, p.1. Probate was valued at only £168, see AD963-1-3-2352 (TAHO). He was buried at Cornelian Bay Cemetery, Hobart. An Examiner correspondent later claimed that Tom Murray ‘just sold me the machinery and left’, predicting that ‘we have not heard the last of Balfour yet’ (E Payne, ‘Balfour mine’, Examiner, 19 March 1951, p.2).

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Theophilus Jones and the thylacine: or the case for the prosecution

1901 was a prolific year for thylacine appearances at Woolnorth. Here VDL Co stockman Walter Pinkard reports from the thick of the action 8 June 1901. From VDL22-1-32 (TAHO).
Tigers to the left, tigers to the right … VDL Co stockman Walter Pinkard reports from the thick of the Woolnorth tiger action 8 June 1901. From VDL22-1-32 (TAHO).

How do you stigmatise an animal? Try branding. The change from ‘hyena’ to ‘tiger’, as the common descriptor for the thylacine, was a major step in its reinvention as a sheep killer. Both ‘tiger’ and ‘hyena’ were used commonly to describe the thylacine during much of the nineteenth century, with ‘tiger’ only becoming the dominant term late in that century and into the twentieth century. For example, the records of the Van Diemen’s Land Company (VDL Co) show that the company’s local officers used ‘hyena’ almost universally to describe the thylacine during the company’s first period of farming its Woolnorth property, in the years 1827–51—whereas later they went exclusively with ‘tiger’.

The stripes on the thylacine’s back presumably prompted the original attributions of the names ‘tiger’ and ‘hyena’, by Robert Knopwood and CH Jeffreys respectively.[1] The Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) and the striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) were mentioned regularly in nineteenth-century newspaper items about life in the British Raj, which some foreign-born Tasmanians had also visited. Tigers, leopards, cheetahs, wolves and, less often, hyenas, preyed on stock and sometimes people in India. Government rewards were offered there for killing tigers. While the fearsome tiger was the favourite ‘sport’ of Indian big game hunters, the hyena, unlike its some-time Tasmanian namesake, was not the primary carnivore in the Bengali ecology. It was sometimes reported to be ‘cowardly’, ‘skulking’ and lacking in the fight desired by the game hunter.[2]

Likewise, the thylacine was also often described as ‘cowardly’ in its alleged sheep predations.[3] By the 1870s and 1880s, however, when the profitability of the wool industry was declining, those employed in the industry seem to have used the term ‘tiger’ almost universally to describe the thylacine. Perhaps shepherds preferred ‘tiger’ because it glamorised their profession, introducing an element of danger and likening them to the big game hunters of India. The way in which some thylacine killers made trophies of their kills and were photographed with these suggests identification with big game hunting.[4] By the same token, dubbing the thylacine a ‘tiger’ provided a potential scapegoat for sheep losses, enabling the shepherd to shift the blame for his own poor performance on to what may henceforth be perceived as a dangerous predator. Wool-growers wanting to eliminate the thylacine would also be keen to cast it as a dangerous predator. John Lyne, the east coast wool-grower who led the campaign for a government thylacine bounty, referred to the animal as a ‘tiger’ but also as a ‘dingo’, thereby equating the thylacine with the well-known mainland Australian sheep predator.[5] In 1887 ‘Tiger Lyne’s campaign   was mocked to the effect that

‘the jungles of India do not furnish anything like the terrors that our own east coast does in the matter of wild beasts of the most ferocious kind. According to ‘Tiger Lyne’, these dreadful animals [thylacines] may be seen in their hundreds stealthily sneaking along, seeking whom they may devour …’[6]

The VDL Co correspondence records show that the company’s local agent James Norton Smith also originally described the thylacine as a ‘hyena’. He appears to have adopted ‘tiger’ as a descriptor in 1872 after his Woolnorth overseer, Cole, used the term in a letter to him. James Wilson, Woolnorth overseer 1874–98, also used the term ‘tiger’ exclusively, and after 1876 Norton Smith followed suit. The term ‘hyena’ was not used in any correspondence written or compiled by VDL Co staff, in Woolnorth farm journal records or Woolnorth accounting records in the years 1877–99. While Norton Smith occasionally used the term ‘hyena’ in the years following Wilson’s retirement from Woolnorth, ‘tiger’ remained his preferred term and this continued to be used exclusively at Woolnorth.

Theophilus Jones: thylacine prosecutor

As Robert Paddle and others have suggested, pastoralists generally blamed the thylacine as well as the rabbit for their declining political power and wealth.[7] One of the greatest prosecutors of the thylacine at this time was Theophilus Jones. In 1877–78 and 1883–85 two young British journalists toured Tasmania writing serialised newspaper accounts of its districts. Since both were newcomers, with limited knowledge of the colony, they could be expected to repeat unquestioningly much of what they were told. The first of these writers, E Richall Richardson, travelled all the populated regions of Tasmania except the far north-west and Woolnorth. On the east coast, Richardson interviewed woolgrowers, including John Lyne, the MHA for Glamorgan who a decade later would petition to establish the thylacine bounty. Richardson’s only comment upon the thylacine as a sheep killer or any kind of nuisance in his 92-part series was not on the east coast or in the Midlands, but in reference to the twice-yearly visits of graziers to their Central Plateau stock runs:

‘If when the master comes up, and there is a deficit in the flock, the rule is ‘blame the tiger’. The native tiger is a kind of scape-goat amongst shepherds in Tasmania, as the dingo is with shepherds in Queensland; or as ‘the cat’ is with housemaids and careless servants all over the world. ‘It was the cat, ma’am, as broke the sugar-basin’; and ‘It was the tigers, sir, who ate the sheep’.[8]

Theophilus Jones, in his 99-part series written in the years 1883–85, told a different tale. By this time, only half a decade since Richardson wrote, the wool industry had declined markedly. The first ‘stock protection’ association, that is, a locally subscribed thylacine bounty scheme, was formed at Buckland on the east coast in August 1884 while Jones was touring the area.[9]

Jones’ circumstances were different to the earlier writer’s. Although travelling in poverty, Richardson was a single man with no commitments. Jones, on the other hand, was trying desperately to support a wife and large family. While travelling Tasmania as a newspaper correspondent, he doubled as an Australian Mutual Provident (AMP) assurance salesman. Much more than Richardson, Jones concentrated on populated areas where he might sell assurance and find well-to-do patrons. He not only visited Woolnorth but practically every large grazier in the colony, and he flattered men who were in a position to financially benefit him. Whether currying favour or being merely ignorant of the truth, it is not then surprising to find Jones spouting woolgrowers’ vituperative against the thylacine. Henry, John and William Lyne appear to have fed Jones a litany of almost six decades of warfare with Aborigines and the wildlife, as if these were age-old predators: ‘Blacks and tigers made the life of a young shepherd one of continued mental strain’.[10] For Jones the tiger was generally the biggest killer of sheep, followed by the devil and the ‘eaglehawk’. The thylacine had ‘massive’ jaws, ‘serrated’ teeth and a powerful body like that of a kangaroo dog.[11] It was ‘a great coward’, savaging lambs but refusing battle with man or dog.[12] Jones applauded the stock protection association, hoping that it would reduce eagles and tigers ‘to the last specimen’.[13] That is, drive them to extinction.

Jones had already visited Woolnorth. He found that, like his predecessors, tigerman Charlie Williams kept ‘trophies’ at Mount Cameron, his prize being a thylacine skin 2.3 metres long.[14]

Like Williams, the government was actually more interested in possums. It had cited increased hunting, in response to high skin prices, as a reason to introduce the Game Protection Amendment Act (1884), which protected all kinds of possum during the summer, allowing open season from April to July inclusive. During debate about the bill in the House of Assembly, James Dooley ‘likened the sympathy for the native animals to that which was excited in favour of the native race’, to which MHA for Sorell, James Gray, responded that ‘the only resemblance between the natives and the opossums were that they were both black. (Laughter.)’[15]

It was also Gray who in 1885 asserted the ‘necessity of something being done to stop the ravages of the native tiger in the pastoral districts of the colony …’.[16] John Lyne took up this stock protection measure: a £1 per head thylacine bounty operated from 1888 to 1909. About 2200 bounties were paid across Tasmania, helping to drive the animal towards extinction. Bounties were paid by the Colonial Treasurer upon thylacine carcasses being presented to local police magistrates or wardens. 

Woolnorth was a remote settlement with challenges faced by few wool-growing properties. Distance from towns, doctors and schools was probably one reason that it was so difficult to find and keep a reliable man to work at Mount Cameron West in particular. Time and time again James Wilson’s farm journals record the Mount Cameron West shepherd’s monthly visits to the main farm at Woolnorth to get supplies and return with them to his own hut: ‘Tigerman came down’ and ‘Tiger went home’. ‘Tigerman’, which carries the implication of being a dedicated thylacine killer, may have been coined to glamorise the position in order to attract staff. It and the general use of the term ‘tiger’ at Woolnorth may also indicate that the overseer, his stockman and farm hands wanted to shift the blame for sheep losses on the property. 

Table 3: Occurrences of various names for the thylacine in Tasmanian newspapers for the years 1816–1954 (in both text and advertising), taken from the Trove digital newspaper database 22 December 2016

NAME 1816–87 1888–1909 1910–54 TOTAL
Tasmanian tiger 141 (84–57) 96 (64–32) 434 (420–14) 671 (568–103)
Native tiger 326 (199–127) 197 (186–11) 88 (88–0) 611 (473–138)
Tasmanian native tiger 5 (5–0) 0 (0–0) 7 (7–0) 12 (12–0)
Thylacine/thylacinus 43 (43–0) 20 (20–0) 93 (91–2) 156 (154–2)
Hyena/native hyena/opossum hyena 165 (107–58) 46 (39–7) 84 (77–7) 295 (223–72)
Dog-faced opossum 1 (1–0) 0 (0–0) 0 (0–0) 1 (1–0)
Tasmanian wolf 9 (3–6) 11 (11–0) 97 (97–0) 117 (111–6)
Marsupial wolf 4 (4–0) 6 (6–0) 74 (74–0) 84 (84–0)
Tiger wolf 7 (7–0) 3 (3–0) 3 (3–0) 13 (13–0)
Native wolf/native wolf-dog 5 (5–0) 0 (0–0) 5 (5–0) 10 (10–0)
Zebra wolf 5 (5–0) 6 (6–0) 2 (2–0) 13 (13–0)
Tasmanian tiger wolf 1 (1–0) 0 (0–0) 0 (0–0) 1 (1–0)[17]

In her book Paper tiger: how pictures shaped the thylacine, Carol Freeman stated that ‘Tasmanian wolf’ and ‘marsupial wolf’ were the principal names given to the thylacine in the zoological world until well into the twentieth century, described how in the period from the 1870s to the 1890s ‘wolf-like’ visual images of the species predominated in natural history literature, and speculated that illustrations of this kind, repeated in mass-produced Australian newspapers in 1884, 1885 and 1899, ‘influenced perceptions close to the habitat of the thylacine and encouraged government extermination policies’.[18]

The National Library of Australia’s Trove digital newspaper database allows us to test the idea that the depiction of the thylacine as a ‘wolf’ or as ‘wolf-like’ had any traction in Tasmania. Unlike the inter-colonial illustrated newspapers to which Freeman referred—Australian Graphic (1884), Illustrated Australian News (1885) and Town and Country Journal (1899)—the Trove search represented by Table 3 is restricted to 88 Tasmanian newspaper titles, 23 of which published during at least part of the period of the Tasmanian government thylacine bounty 1888–1909. More than any other type of publication, the Tasmanian newspapers are likely to contain the language of ordinary Tasmanians, expressed either by journalists, newspaper correspondents or by themselves in letters to the editor—and they were more likely than any other form of publication to be read by and contributed to by graziers, legislators and hunter-stockmen involved in killing thylacines. Some of these newspapers carried occasional lithographed or engraved images, but the search does not include the two best-known Tasmanian illustrated newspapers, the Weekly Courier (1901–35) and the Tasmanian Mail/Illustrated Tasmanian Mail (1877–1935), which (in December 2016) were yet to be digitised for the Trove database. Trove coverage of Tasmanian newspapers begins with the Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter in 1816 and goes no later than 1954 except in a few cases.

The Tasmanian 'zebra wolf', from the San Francisco Chronicle, 18 February 1896, p.6.
The Tasmanian ‘zebra wolf’, from the San Francisco Chronicle, 18 February 1896, p.6.

The Trove search suggests that in the period 1888–1909 the terms ‘native tiger’ (197 hits) and ‘Tasmanian tiger’ (96 hits) were much more widely used by the general public in Tasmania that any permutation of ‘wolf’ (26 hits altogether), and that ‘hyena’ (46 hits) was also more popular than ‘wolf’. While the 1884 issue of Australian Graphic which contained the illustration of the ‘Tasmanian zebra wolf’ is not included in the Trove search, it did pick up a description of that issue of the newspaper by the editor of the Mercury. Clearly he was not profoundly influenced by the engraving of the thylacine:

‘The illustrations are fairly good, excepting those which are apparently intended to be amusing; these amuse only by their extreme absurdity. There is a cut representing, what is termed, a Tasmanian zebra wolf. It is about as true to nature as the pictures exhibited outside a travelling menagerie’.[19]

The Tasmanian wolf as a sheep devourer in 1947, when the term had gained some popular usage: from Hotch Potch (the magazine of the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia), October 1947, vol.4, p.2 (TAHO).
The ‘Tasmanian wolf’ as a sheep devourer in 1947, when the term ‘wolf’ had gained some popular usage: from Hotch Potch (the magazine of the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia), October 1947, vol.4, p.2 (TAHO).

The names ‘Tasmanian wolf’ (97 hits) and ‘marsupial wolf’ (74 hits) only gained traction in Tasmanian newspapers in the period (1910–54) when the thylacine was clearly disappearing or virtually extinct, that is, when the scientific and zoological community entered the popular press in its desperate search for a remnant thylacine population. This is also the period in which the Latin scientific name for the animal, thylacine, thylacinus (93 hits) occurred much more frequently in the Tasmanian press. However, even in this period, ‘tiger’ (529 hits) remained easily the predominant descriptor for the thylacine. The fact that the thylacine received more attention in the press during the years when it could not be found than when it could speaks for itself, although of course many more newspapers were published in the first half of the twentieth century than in the nineteenth.


[1] Eric Guiler and Philippe Godard, Tasmanian tiger: a lesson to be learnt, Abrolhos Publishing, Perth, 1998, p.15.

[2] ‘Pigsticking in India’, Launceston Examiner, 29 March 1897, p.3; ‘Shikalee’, ‘Wild sport in India’, Launceston Examiner, 24 July 1897, p.2.

[3] See, for example’, ‘Royal Society of Tasmania’, Courier, 16 June 1858, p.2; or ‘Town talk and table chat’, Cornwall Chronicle, 27 March 1867, p.4.

[4] See, for example, [Theophilus Jones], ‘Through Tasmania: no.35’, Mercury, 26 April 1884, supplement, p.1.

[5] See, for example, ‘Parliament’, Launceston Examiner, 1 October 1886, p.3.

[6] Tasmanian Mail, 3 September 1887; cited by Robert Paddle, The last Tasmanian tiger: the history and extinction of the thylacine, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2000, p.161.

[7] See Robert Paddle, The last Tasmanian tiger.

[8] E Richall Richardson, ‘Tour through Tasmania: no.89: cattle branding’, Tasmanian Tribune, 14 March 1878, p.3.

[9] ‘Buckland’, Mercury, 15 August 1884, p.3.

[10] Theophilus Jones, ‘Through Tasmania: no.61’, Mercury, 8 November 1884, supplement, p.1.

[11] Theophilus Jones, ‘Through Tasmania: no.49’, Mercury, 26 July 1884, p.2.

[12] Theophilus Jones, ‘Through Tasmania: no.35’, Mercury, 26 April 1884, supplement, p.1.

[13] Theophilus Jones, ‘Through Tasmania: no.56’, Mercury, 20 September 1884, p.2.

[14] Theophilus Jones, ‘Through Tasmania: no.35’, Mercury, 26 April 1884, supplement, p.1.

[15] ‘House of Assembly’, Mercury, 24 October 1884, p.3.

[16] ‘Meeting at Buckland’, Mercury, 14 August 1884, p.2; ‘The native tiger’, Mercury, 25 September 1885, p.2.

[17] This list was compiled on 22 December 2016. The numbers in brackets indicate how many of the hits occurred in text and how many in advertising. While occurrences of a name in advertising are a relevant gauge of its public usage, it is recognised that numbers of hits are exaggerated by repeated publication of the same advertisement. Another issue noted in this search of Trove was the need to weed out references to ‘native and tiger cats’, which refer to the two species of quoll rather than to the thylacine. There are also cases of repetition in the sense that some textual references involve two or more names for the thylacine, such as ‘the Tasmanian tiger or marsupial wolf’. In such cases both names have been included in the table.

[18] Carol Freeman, Paper tiger: how pictures shaped the thylacine, Forty South Publishing, Hobart, 2014, pp.117and 140.

[19] Editorial, Mercury, 28 March 1884, p.2.

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Ernest Warde (1870?-1954), last of the Woolnorth ‘tigermen’

A photo of two thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) carcasses suspended from a hut in Waratah, Tasmania, has intrigued students of the animal’s demise. Who killed these tigers? Eric Guiler speculated that they might have been taken by a Waratah hunter John Cooney who collected two government thylacine bounties in 1901.[1]


In fact the photographer, Arthur Ernest Warde, was himself a hunter and future Woolnorth ‘tigerman’, and the photo probably depicts his own kills. The man in question was a wheeler and dealer who spent three decades in Tasmania, turning his hand to any useful practical skill—including photography and exploiting the fur trade. The terms of Warde’s stint at the Van Diemen’s Land Company’s (VDL Co’s) Woolnorth property in the years 1903–05 confirm that, far from being specialist thylacine killers, the so-called Woolnorth tigermen were simply regular hunter-stockmen who also took responsibility for managing snares set for thylacines at Green Point near latter-day Marrawah. Given this collision of photographer and tiger snarer, it is tantalising to wonder what tiger-related photos Warde took while working at Woolnorth that may still remain undiscovered in a family scrapbook, or which may have long since mouldered away in someone’s back shed, lost for all time.

Ernest Warde photo of Maori chiefs, 1998:P:0383, QVMAG
Ernest Warde photo of Maori chiefs, 1998:P:0383, QVMAG

Warde’s early life remains as mysterious as his tiger photo. In Wellington, New Zealand in 1890 he married renowned whistler and music teacher Catherine Elizabeth Walker, née Dooley, the daughter of Zeehan shopkeeper Joseph Benjamin Dooley and his wife Annie Dooley.[2] The Wardes, both of whom were known by their middle name, appear to have been in Bendigo in 1891 and by 1893 had relocated to Inveresk, Launceston, where the photographer, ‘late of New Zealand’, presented images of Maori chiefs to the Queen Victoria Museum.[3] The couple’s first child, Winifred Warde, was born at Launceston in 1893.[4]

The Warde photo of the two thylacine carcasses, from Eric Guiler and Philippe Godard, Tasmanian tiger: a lesson to be learnt, p.129.
The Warde photo of the two thylacine carcasses, from Eric Guiler and Philippe Godard, Tasmanian tiger: a lesson to be learnt, p.129.

In 1896 the Wardes were in Devonport, in 1897 in Waratah, where second daughter Mabel was born.[5] Elizabeth taught music in both towns.[6] It was supposedly at Waratah that Warde took the intriguing photo, which shows two thylacine and eight wallaby carcasses hanging from the front of a building more closely resembling a woodshed than a hunting hut. The photo slightly pre-dates the era of the skinshed, the unique Tasmanian invention which revolutionised high country hunting by enabling hunters to dry large numbers of skins without leaving the high country. In fact, the photo does not show drying skins, but carcasses which are yet to be skinned. What is the purpose of the image? It is not the conventional trophy photo, which would pose the hunter with his trophy kill. Warde himself collected two thylacine bounties, ten months apart, in September 1900 and July 1901, while living at Waratah, where he probably learned to hunt.[7] Just as the bushman Thomas Bather Moore celebrated in verse the incident in which one of his dogs killed a ‘striped gentleman’, perhaps for Ernest Warde the novelty of killing a thylacine or two justified commemoration or memorialisation of the event with a photo. It is likely that he killed at least one of the thylacines in the photo, and afterwards submitted it for the government bounty.

Warde’s Osborne Studio photo of the fire at ER Evans boot shop and house, Burnie. From the Weekly Courier, 1 March 1902, p.17.
Warde’s Osborne Studio photo of the fire at ER Evans boot shop and house, Burnie.
From the Weekly Courier, 1 March 1902, p.17.
Warde’s Osborne Studio photo of EJ Wilson’s children, 1986:P:0045, QVMAG.
Warde’s Osborne Studio photo of EJ Wilson’s children, 1986:P:0045, QVMAG.

Warde was one of many to have practised photography in Waratah, and with the town’s population still growing, he would not be the last. However, in December 1901 a better photographic opportunity arose in a coastal centre, Burnie, when John Bishop Osborne decided to move on. Warde took over Osborne’s Burnie studio, while also operating a farm at Boat Harbour and advertising his and Elizabeth’s services as musicians.[8] In 1902, while Elizabeth was busy producing the couple’s third child, Francis Harold Warde, photos credited to Warde and to Warde’s Osborne Studio photos appeared in the Weekly Courier and Tasmanian Mail newspapers.[9]

The tigerman job advertised, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 22 May 1903, p.3.
The tigerman job advertised, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 22 May 1903, p.3.

Warde appears to have made the acquaintance of VDL Co agent AK McGaw while supplying photos to the company. The photography business must not have been lucrative, as in May 1903 he agreed to replace the gaoled George Wainwright as the Mount Cameron West tigerman.[10] Warde’s contract as ‘Snarer’ shows him to be a general stockman and farm hand engaged for the Mount Cameron West run, with the killing of ‘vermin’ (that is, all marsupials) his primary duty:


‘It is hereby agreed that the Snarer shall proceed to Mount Cameron Woolnorth … and shall devote his time to the destruction of Tasmanian Tigers, Devils and other vermin and in addition thereto shall tend stock depasturing on the Mount Cameron Studland Bay, and Swan Bay runs, also effect any necessary repairs to fences and shall immediately report any serious damage to fences or any mixing of stock to the Overseer & shall assist to muster stock on any of the above runs whenever required to do so & generally to protect the Company’s interests shall also prepare meals for stockmen when engaged on the Mount Cameron Run’.


The pay was £20 plus rations (meat, flour, potatoes, sugar, tea, salt, with a cow given him for milk) with the snarer providing his own horse.[11] A butter churn was later provided, and farm manager James Norton Smith added that ‘when he wants a change he can catch plenty of crayfish’.[12] No rent was paid for the Mount Cameron West Hut, and the former company reward of £1 per thylacine still applied. In addition, the VDL Co agreed to supply the snarer ‘with hemp and copper wire for the manufacture of tiger snares only (the Snarer supplying such materials as he may require for Kangaroo or Wallaby snares)’.[13] That is, the necker snares used to catch thylacines were stronger than those used to catch wallabies and pademelons. It was the same deal as for his predecessors: the company supplied a small wage and rations, encouraging the stockman-hunter to protect his flock by killing thylacines and keep the grass down by killing other marsupials. In July 1904 Warde advertised in the newspaper for an ‘opossum dog’, which he was willing to exchange for a ‘splendid kangaroo dog’. He knew that the best money was in brush possum furs.[14]


Warde was the last stockman-hunter based at Mount Cameron West. Nearing the close of 1904 he was also trying to ‘get a good line of snares down from the Welcome [?] forest into the back of the Studland bay knolls’, which would give him ‘a splendid tiger break …’[15] However, he had probably already landed the last of his twelve thylacines for the company. In February 1905 the Mount Cameron West Hut was burnt down, Warde’s family escaping the flames late at night in the breadwinner’s absence.[16] That the hut was not replaced for years confirms that the thylacine problem, real or perceived, had abated.[17]


After leaving Mount Cameron West, Ward ditched the ‘e’ from the end of his surname and complemented the Boat Harbour farm with a general store. The Wardes remained there until in 1923 they sold up their store to Hamilton Brothers of Myalla and relocated to New Zealand, where A Ernest Warde reattached his ‘e’ and reinvented himself firstly as an Otago real estate agent, working for his father-in-law, then as an Auckland used car salesman.[18] Elizabeth Warde disappeared from the picture and, appropriately, Ernest wound back his personal odometer to 49 years when in 1932 he took his new 33-year-old bride Mary Winifred Tremewan to see England and America.[19] The new marriage ended when the couple was living in Sydney in the mid-1940s.[20] Warde’s death certificate, in July 1954, described him as an ‘investor’. In truth, he was a trans-Tasman jack-of-all-trades who happened to be the last of the Woolnorth tigermen.[21]

[1] Eric Guiler and Philippe Godard, Tasmanian Tiger: a lesson to be learnt, Abrolhos Publishing, Perth, 1998, p.129. Cooney’s bounty payment was no.249, 19 June 1901 (2 adults, ’11 June’), LSD247/1/ 2 (Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office [hereafter TAHO]).

[2] For her prowess as a whistler, see ‘Current topics’, Launceston Examiner, 15 January 1894, p.5; ‘Burston Relief Concert’, Daily Telegraph, 16 January 1894, p.3 and ‘Entertainment at the Don’, North West Post, 21 April 1894, p.4. Elizabeth Walker is the mother’s name given on the couple’s three children’s birth certificates. On the 1903 Electoral Roll her name is given as Catherine Elizabeth Warde.

[3] ‘Australian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition’, Ballarat Star, 26 May 1891, p.4; ‘The Museum’, Launceston Examiner, 23 December 1893, p.3.

[4] She was born 31 August 1893, birth registration no.606/1893, Launceston.

[5] In 1896 E Warde of West Devonport advertised to sell a camera, lens and portrait stand (advert, Mercury, 23 May 1896, p.4). In 1897 the Wardes featured in a Waratah dance (‘Plain and Fancy Dress Dance’, Launceston Examiner, 9 October 1897, p.9). Mabel Warde’s birth was registered as no. 2760/1898, Waratah.

[6] Advert, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 30 January 1902, p.3.

[7]; Bounties no.293, 18 September 1900 (’11 September’); and no.305, 12 July 1901, LSD247/1/2 (TAHO).

[8] See advert, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 6 December 1901, p.4; ‘Table Cape’, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 19 November 1901, p.2. John Bishop Osborne, the former Hobart photographer, had been on the move every few years since setting up at Zeehan in 1890. Osborne moved to Penguin, and he would end his days in Longford, where he lived 1921–34. Ernest and Elizabeth Warde advertised that they were available to supply music to parties and balls, while Elizabeth also sought piano, organ and dance students (advert, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 30 January 1902, p.3).

[9] Francis Harold Warde was born at Alexander Street, Burnie, on 17 December 1902 (registration no. 2061/1903). Catherine Elizabeth Warde and Ernest Warde were listed at Burnie on the 1903 Electoral Roll.

[10] The new operator of the Osborne Studio was Mr Touzeau of Melba Studio, Melbourne (advert, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 27 June 1903, p.1). Warde held a furniture sale at his Alexander Street, Burnie, residence in June 1903 (‘Burnie’, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 13 June 1903, p.3) and advertised for a ‘strong quiet buggy Horse and good double-seated Buggy (tray-seated preferred …’ (advert, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 8 June 1903, p.3).

[11] For Warde’s proposed rations, see James Norton Smith to AK McGaw, 4 June 1903, VDL22/1/34 (TAHO).

[12] James Norton Smith to AK McGaw, 4 June 1903; Ernest Warde to AK McGaw, 7 October 1903, VDL22/1/34 (TAHO).

[13] Agreement between the VDL Co and Ernest Warde, 29 May 1903, VDL20/1/1 (TAHO).

[14] Advert, North West Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 26 July 1904, p.3.

[15] E Warde to AK McGaw, 22 December 1904, VDL22/1/35 (TAHO).

[16] ‘Marrawah’, North West Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 11 February 1905, p.2.

[17] Woolnorth farm journal, 3 February 1905, VDL277/1/32 (TAHO).

[18] ‘Boat Harbor’, Advocate, 31 January 1923, p.4; ‘Bankruptcy’, Auckland Star, 27 September 1929, p.9.

[19] Did Elizabeth Warde die or did the couple divorce? No record of her was found. According to their marriage certificate (registration no.8401/1929), Mary Winifred Tremewan was born in New Zealand in October 1898. For their ten-month English and American holiday, see ‘The social round’, Auckland Star, 6 January 1933, p.9 and UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878–1960. They sailed from Sydney to London on the Ormonde.

[20] Record no.1208/1944, Western Sydney Records Centre, Kingswood, NSW.

[21] Warde was not the last man to kill thylacines at Woolnorth, but the last in a long line of hunter-stockmen appointed specifically to Mount Cameron West to look after stock and manage the thylacine snares at Green Point.