Photo Essay: A walk with George

George Fuller Recollections of Launceston
As an adult in the 1890s, George Fuller sat down and recalled ‘from memory’ the places, buildings and people of his youth during the 1830s and 40s in Launceston, Tasmania.
With a copy of his written recollections in hand, I take a walk with George along a section of St John Street, discovering – through his eyes – just how much has changed.


St John’s Church
As we stroll along the east side, George describes the entire square between Elizabeth and Frederick Streets as being open land. The only building, St John’s Church, stood all alone surrounded by a white picket fence. Today, the original Church is upstaged by its newer, more ornate companion.


Nelumi Dr Pugh Launceston
Reaching the corner, we’re delighted to discover a row of buildings still standing. George recalls Dr Pugh’s private residence having an adjoining Chemist shop, and that Miss Waddell’s two-storey Lady’s School was located next door.


Continuing on, we take our first steps along the stretch of ‘open land’ from George’s younger years. Far from empty, the first of many intruders appears to stare at us from above.


Further on, the newer residents favour a fresh, classic look.  With style and colour-schemes duplicated row upon row and reaching Canning Street, it’s easy to wonder if George would have be impressed by the additions to the then-vacant land.


Crossing the street to the east where orchards once stood, a splash of blue beckons us closer. Tempted to stay, we instead head back – our walk together almost at an end.


As we approach the corner of Frederick Street, George describes what to expect. Looking for the late Mr Wheedon’s place, then a private residence ‘stood back’, we are instead met by a tower of limestone, brick and iron reaching for the sky.


Chalmers Church was built after George’s time in Launceston, and officially opened in 1860. Still standing strong today, the gothic-style and peeling paintwork make it one of St John Street’s most recognisable structures.


Leaving Chalmers, we make our way toward the open land that was – and still is – Prince’s Square.  Joining Dr Pugh as he descends the stairs immortalised in bronze, we enter our final destination.


As we make our way toward the fountain, George recalls that the Military would muster here on the Queen’s birthday to go through their drill and fire a salute. No doubt an exciting occasion for a young boy, he even remembered that Colonel Cumberland was in charge of the 96th Regiment.
Stopping to take in our lush surrounds, we silently contemplate where our next walk together through the streets of Launceston may be.


A walk with George was created as part of The Photo Essay unit through the University of Tasmania. Using 7-10 photos, each with a caption of 1-3 sentences, the idea was to use images and words to tell a story.

Recollections of Launceston‘ (1836-1847) is an Indexed Transcription of an unpublished collection of notes and letters dated 1897 by George Samuel Fuller (‘from memory’), transcribed by Margaret Szalay (NSW, 2003) from original material held in the Manuscripts Collection at the Mitchell Library, Sydney, NSW.

The section of St John Street I have photographed (using iPhone 5s) for this essay appears on pages 17 and 19.

Things our ancestors said (#2)

There are many examples of the things our ancestors said through history’s pages that were actually pretty reasonable at the time, but would no doubt seem a bit strange or out of place today. While quite often amusing, they help to tell the stories, highlight some of the challenges faced, and show just how much things have changed through the ages.

Like these:

I can’t stay long, sorry. I need to get up early tomorrow and bash a stick against a bunch of windows.

In the days before alarm clocks, a ‘Knocker-Up (or Knocker Upper) was an actual profession in parts of Britain and Ireland. Rising early, the Knocker Up’s job was to rouse the town-folk by knocking on windows – ensuring they got to work on time.

As you do.

The Human Alarm Clock - image from
The Human Alarm Clock – image from


Stop that man, he’s…walking upright!

According to a description of my 3x great grandfather, William Saunders, from 1861, he was 5 foot 5 (or 6) inches tall with a fair complexion and light brown hair that curled out from under his billy-cock hat.

He also had legs…and used them to walk.  Upright of all things!

william-saunders-and-fanny-harrex AU6103-1861 Tasmania Reports of Crime 1861. Original data: Gould Genealogy & History.

I was quite amused by this inclusion. Did it mean an upright man? One of religious standing, maybe? Google tells me that, “The upright person has a great respect for god and his commandments. The upright has a secure walk or lifestyle and is guided by integrity and avoids crooked paths.”

Given that this notice appeared in the Tasmanian Reports of Crime, I think that’s highly unlikely. So I’m thinking others on the run may have been described as ‘walks with a limp’ or ‘walks with a slouch’…maybe.


We need to build more pubs! There are only one for every 166 people for goodness sake – a man could die of thirst!

In 1848, one pub for every 166 inhabitants of Tasmania was considered quite the norm, apparently.   With colourful names including The Lamb and Flag, The Help Me Through the World and Good Woman, our ancestors were spoiled for choice.

The Examiner (Launceston, Tas), 1 March 1946 (Trove).
The Examiner (Launceston, Tas), 1 March 1946 (Trove).


You return it.

No, you return it!

Let’s just keep it – maybe they will never find out.

Whether urban legend or truth, the story behind the Val d’Osne fountain in Prince’s Square in Launceston, Tasmania, has been shared far and wide.  Apparently it was meant to be delivered to Launceston, Cornwall, England but somehow made its way here instead – just slightly off track by around 11,000 miles.

The effort and cost of returning it was deemed too much (and too troublesome) at the time, so it stayed.

Fair enough.

Val d'Osne Fountain, Prince's Square, Launceston, Tasmania; Unknown; c
Val d’Osne Fountain, Prince’s Square, Launceston, Tasmania; Unknown


I would like to register the birth of a child please.

Child’s name?

Percy Gladys Evans

Can you repeat that?

Percy Gladys Evans

Why, that’s an unusual middle name for a boy, but OK then…

This one is not so much what our ancestors said, but how they said it. Registered by a friend of the Evans family, Lucy Gladys Evans was recorded as a boy in 1899.

Excerpt of Birth Record for Percy Gladys Evans, 1899, Queenstown (TAHO).

I can only imagine that this may have been as a result of the friend having an extremely strong accent of some kind. Or perhaps the registrar was hard of hearing?  I guess we may never know, but it did make me chuckle at how easily mistakes like these must have been made. Not like our system today!


How times have changed, indeed.


For Things our Ancestors Said #1, click here.

Spirit of Anzac

How do you tell the story of Australia’s involvement in the First World War?

How do you do it justice and engage people?

You hit them in the feels, that’s how.

Spirit of Anzac

The ‘official’ description of the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience (touring Australia currently) is that it “follows a chronological timeline spanning the period from pre-First World War Australia to the present day, using a mix of visuals, artefacts, audio and film to engage visitors.”

Well sure, it does that. It does that very well.

But it’s the little details, the powerful visuals, and the personal stories that bring it to life.

Western Front

Well, for me anyway.

A few weeks on, and I can still remember the name of the ‘youngest Anzac’ (James Martin). He was only 14 when he died and is commemorated at the Lone Pine Cemetery.

A few weeks on, and I can still hear the voice of the man in the trenches. I can still see his face as his thoughts were verbalised, the sounds of gunfire ever-present.

A few weeks on, and I can still recall the respectful ‘stillness’ of other visitors as they observed and listened. And the impact that some parts of the exhibition in particular seemed to have on them.

A few weeks on, and I can still remember the moment of walking into the ‘Lest We Forget’ gallery. How I stopped to take it all in, and how the music inspired quiet reflection and remembrance.

Lest We Forget

But most of all, I can still remember how I felt.

There is power in storytelling, and when it results in all the feels, you know it’s been done well.

Anzac Wall


Lest we forget.

Things our Ancestors said

When I first found out that in 1942, dairy farmers in New Zealand had to prove they owned 12 cows before they could buy a pair of gumboots, I couldn’t help but imagine a snippet of conversation from that time:

“Just two more cows and I’ll finally be able to buy a pair of wellies!”

Somewhere in NZ, someone’s great grandfather…um…Joe, was excitedly counting down the days until one of his cows gave birth, hoping it produced twins. “Not long now, Daisy!

I’ll admit I may have laughed at the thought, but then remembered that during 1942 – along with rationing of food and other supplies – there was a rubber shortage. Tough times calling for tough measures!  And while today all we have to do is save a few dollars and pop to the local shop, back then getting your hands on car tyres or other types of rubber was rare.

So then I felt bad for imaginary Joe.  I hope he got his gumboots, and the farm was OK.

There are many examples of this type of thing though our history’s pages: the things our ancestors said that would no doubt seem a bit strange or out of place today, but were pretty reasonable at the time.

They still make me laugh at times (sorry), but they also help to tell the stories, highlight some of the challenges faced, and show just how much things have changed:

Convict Constable

In the 1830s, a shortage on the police force led to ‘well behaved’ convicts being recruited as Constables.  George Warren, who arrived to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1830, was one.

George was transported for burglary, and only a year later was serving on the ‘other side’ of the law.

Burglary.  As in house breaking; for which he received a life sentence.

He was also of ‘bad conduct’ during transportation.

Yep, seems legit.

“Sorry, I can’t make it today. There’s a funeral this afternoon, and I’m pushing the coffin in wheelbarrow.”

I have no doubt that times were tough in 1905. Not everyone had access to transport, or could afford it.

Even, it seems, for a funeral.

So apparently a wheelbarrow it was for my 2x Great Grandfather.  A journey of around 10 kms (6.2 miles) from the family home to Franklin Village Church.

“Kids I have some sad news. Your father died.  There was no funeral or coffin, but it’s OK – his friends made sure to cover him with bark before they left.”

No coffin? No problem. In 1854 on the Bendigo Goldfields all you needed was a few mates, some sheets of bark, and you were sorted.  And registering a death?  Well that pesky formality just slowed things down when Gold Fever! had struck.

In this case, Daniel Wenn’s remains were found in 1921.  The newspaper reported that “the deceased was buried in his clothes between two sheets of bark, no coffin being procurable.”

Apparently it wasn’t that uncommon at the time…but I think I prefer the wheelbarrow.

“I just don’t feel like a William.

I think George suits me better.”

What do you do if you just don’t want to be called William?  Change your name of course!  Sure you can do it today, but in 1834 there were no official records, or process. It just…happened. The ‘alias’ was quite common, and while William Tomlinson may have had good reason, tracking him down 200 years later is proving a bit…difficult.

There’s something to be said for our current day 100-point identity checks after all.

“Arrest that woman! She’s…exercising!”

Not from my family, but something I came across recently.

Did you know that women were not allowed to compete in the Olympic Games until 1908, and that even then it was only in archery?  It was thought that they should not be allowed to perspire in public, and archery was pretty low-impact therefore more ‘ladylike’.  Australia’s first female Olympians were Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie, who competed in 1912 in swimming (and won gold and silver).

And finally (and possibly my favourite so far):


Never mind the fact that grand uncle Alf was carrying a firearm in public; that’s not the point, silly.

The point is that it was a ‘fowl’ gun.  For shooting birds.

On a Sunday!!

Carry a loaded gun if you must, wave it around if you need to.

Just don’t do it on a Sunday.

A fowl gun means you’re working, and that kind of stuff just gets you thrown into the slammer.

How times have changed, indeed.