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Our New Zealand Cousins
Chapter XX


Good-bye to the bluff—A rough passage—Tasmania in the distance—Coast scenery—A nautical race—Ocean fish­eries—Neglected industries—Fish-curing—Too much reliance on State aid—The view on the Derwent— Hobart from the sea—An old-world town—"No spurt about the place"—Old-fashioned inns—Out into the country—A Tasmanian squire—The great fruit industry —A famous orchard—Young Tasmanians—The hop industry—Australian investments—The Flinders Islands —A terra incognita—Back to Melbourne.

The icy breath of the South Antarctic was caus­ing finger-tips to tingle as we steamed away from Invercargill in the good ship Wairarapa, and left the shores of Maoriland to fade away in the blue haze of distance. What a feast of picturesque grandeur and beauty had we not stored up in memory! What visions of the wondrous glory of the Almighty's creative skill did we not recall as we pondered over the incidents of our all too short summer holiday ! And yet we had not half ex­hausted the marvels of this land of wonders. The weird solemnity of Lake Taupo, with its volcanic eruptions and abysmal activities ; the awful majesty and rugged grandeur of the Alpine gorges and passes; the labyrinthine intricacies and as­tounding sinuosities of the West Coast Sounds, with their startling contrasts of bluff and craggy peak, dashing cascade, and calm azure depths of unfathomable sea, heaving gently at the foot of beetling cliffs—the perils of mountain ascent, over glittering glacier and tumbled moraines—the blush­ing vintage and orchard bounty of the far north— the billowy prairies of rustling grain in the more robust south;—all these we might have witnessed, had time been at our disposal; but all these, and marvels many times multiplied, may be seen by any one possessed of leisure and means, who may, after reading these notes of mine, feel the impulse born within him to follow our example, and pay a visit to this glorious country. I once read a book on the marvels of India entitled, "Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque." There be many pilgrims now-a-days after the same quest; but India and all the magnificence and colouring of Oriental pomp and luxury—all the barbaric splen­dour of "the land of the peacock's throne"— cannot, I think, compare with the majestic pro­digality, the lavish adornment with which Nature has so generously and richly attired the mountains, plains, lakes, forests, and coasts of New Zealand. For variety of natural scenery I do not think any country on our planet can vie with it. Little wonder, then, that any one having a soul in har­mony with the beautiful in Nature, ever so little, and gifted, if even but sparingly, with the faculty of expression, should revel in description of these wonders. As a countryman of Burns and Scott, I confess I could not resist the impulse, and if I have given any of my readers only a tithe of the pleasure by my descriptions that the actual witnessing of the scenery itself has given me, then I feel that I am repaid for all my. scribe labour; and possibly, if I have been the means of exciting a desire to behold for one's self the wonders of Maoriland, I will reap a rich reward of kindly benediction by-and-by, I am sure, from travellers who may follow my footsteps, checking my accuracy and sharing in my delight.

We had a rough, nasty passage to Tasmania. The bounding billows of the South Pacific belie their name; and the peristaltic motion they impart to the diaphragm begets tendencies the very reverse of pacific. "The vasty deep" in these southern regions gets very much mixed and tumbled up, in the winter months, and the accompaniment to the cheerful whistling of the merry winds in the rigging, was a series of groanings almost too deep for utter­ance in the cabins below. We were glad when the bold coast of Tasmania hove in sight. Cape Pillar was the first promontory to greet us. Certes, how the icy blasts shrilly piped their roundelay. The spray from the cut-water hissed past us as we stood on the poop, and made the skin tingle, as from the lash of a whip. As we got abreast of Port Arthur, the scene of horrors and cruelties and iniquities of demoniac intensity in the old convict times, the elements quieted down somewhat, and we were able to enjoy the varied panorama that rapidly unfolded itself before us as we sped swiftly along.

Dense forests clothe the country from the far- off inland hills down to the cliffs that guard the coast. At Cape Raoul the basaltic columnar formation of the coast is very strikingly dis­played. The cliffs jut out in serried series of mighty pillars, just like the perpendicular pipes of a great natural organ. The blast wails and shrieks amid the nooks and crannies, and anon sobs with a gurly undertone of lamentation as it whistles past. All the cliffs in shadow are white with hoar frost, and their minute icicles glitter like diamonds, while the sunny portions, wetted with spray, gleam with a sheen which is positively dazzling.

Now Storm Bay opens out before us. As if to sustain its reputation, the icy blast comes swirling round the snowy summit of Mount Wellington with augmented force, and chills us to the mar­row. We were informed that snow on Mount Wellington is abnormal. Anyway the night­cap was on when we were there, and the weather was bitterly cold. Now we catch the gleam of a white lighthouse on a small island right ahead. Lovely bays open out on the right. The long, glistening estuary of the Derwent, studded with the bleached sails of numerous yacht-like craft. The long blue indistinctness of the river line of the Huon, with here and there a sail relieving the uniformity of tint. The swelling forest-clad hills closing up the background, and now the homesteads and green fields here and there dotting the long acclivity in front, all made up a scene which for breadth, animation, brightness, prettiness, you would find it hard to beat anywhere. The knolls at the mouth of the inner bay are quite park-like with their clumps of bosky wood. Round the various points, sailing close up in the wind, creep whole flotillas of fishing and trading ketches. Tasmanians are famed for their dashing seamanship. The broad estuary is thronged as if a regatta were being held. Some of the ketches lie very l<j>w in the water, and some heel over in regular racer fashion. Most of them have a deep centre-board. Ask the skipper where is his load-line. .He will answer, "Up to the main hatch." They are manned by a hardy, adventurous race, who number among their ranks some of the very finest boat sailors in the world. What splendid herring fishers they would make! Yes, if we only had the herring!

And yet around the Australian coasts what hauls might be made with proper appliances, and what a source of wealth have we not in the teem­ing millions of fish that haunt the shores, and breed among the islets and in every bay and estuary. Here is another of the neglected indus­tries that might give employment to hundreds of our colonial youth. It needs no coddling by the State. It would flourish without the aid of fustian claptrap. It might exist without any custom-house interference. All that is wanted is energy, enterprise, a little daring, and hardihood, a little common-sense organization, and the machinery for disposing of the fish after they are caught. If some enterprising capitalist would only import a crew from Cornwall, or Montrose, or Buchan, or Lerwick, to show our Australian youngsters how they do it in the more treacherous and boisterous seas of the inclement north. I think the venture would pay a good dividend; and I am quite sure every well-disciplined and properly- balanced gastronomic mind would hail such an attempt to introduce a change .from the eternal "chop, steak, and sausages," with a chorus of benediction.

[Since the above was penned, an effort has been made to acclimatize this well-known fish. A large consignment of herring ova was sent out to Melbourne, but unfortunately on being opened, the whole shipment was found to have gone bad. There is little doubt that the trial will again be made, and that the introduction of this valuable fish is only a matter of time.]

In New Zealand, fish-curing is a thriving and lucrative calling. In every hotel delicious smoked fish form a never-failing adjunct to the breakfast table. Large quantities are exported and reach Victoria, and go to other parts. Why can we not do likewise in New South Wales? Again I ask—is it ignorance, or apathy/ sloth, want of energy and enterprise, or what is it? Are we so mildewed and emasculated with the eternal molly-coddle of the Government pap boat, that we cannot launch out and start a new industry like this by private enterprise?

Has the dry rot of subsidy and bonus so wizened us up that all private initiation and independent effort is atrophied? Surely when natural channels pf enterprise such as this exist, and are only waiting to be tried seriously and sensibly, to succeed—nay, to brilliantly succeed—is it not folly —is it not sinful, for patriots with exuberant verbosity, to get up and demand that the State shall impose protective duties on this and that in­dustry, thus hampering the free play of commercial activities, strangling all noble self-reliance, and crushing all independent spirit out of a people already deeply infected with the demoralizing doctrine that the State is to do everything, and that private pluck and enterprise are a mistake and a delusion.

Some time ago several Chinamen started fish- curing on one of the northern lakes in New South Wales, and at the time I knew the place, they were doing well and making a good thing out of it. But then there arose vicious and evil practices, such as the sinful slaughter of myriads of young fry— the use of illegal nets, the wholesale destruction of spawn by means of dynamite, &c., and I believe the fishing on that part of the coast was pretty well murdered. It is a saddening and a humilia­ting reflection that, with all our self-complacency and self-congratulations about our marvellous resources and wonderful natural wealth, we really do so mighty little practically to develop the one or utilize the other.

Possibly the hardest-working and most self- reliant class we have in the Australian community, it seems to me, are our miners or diggers and prospectors; and upon my word, our mining legislation generally, seems deliberately designed with the object of making things as hard for the miner, and putting as many obstructions and impediments in his way, as possible.

But to hark back. Here I am off the track again, and pursuing my impetuous way from smoked fish to mining reserves, without ever a thought towards the patience of my readers!

One of the most prominent features that shows boldly out from the background of boscage as the visitor nears the narrows of the Derwent, from the open roadstead, is a gigantic shot tower, which must have been built in the very early days when the Hentys were pioneers over on the Victorian coast, and when the clanking irons of the chain gang must have been a constant sound in the infant settle­ment. Let the reader get that weird and awful record of the convict system, contained in Marcus Clark's novel, "His Natural Life," and he will then have an idea of what man's inhumanity to man is capable of. The old tower is not the only evidence of antiquity about the place, as we shall presently see. Meantime look at the chequered patterns on the hill-sides. Black ploughed fields alternate with the squares of green young crops, and these again with symmetrically arranged orchards and vineyards. Yes, this is the chosen home at the antipodes of the ruddy-cheeked and golden-haired Pomona. One can almost fancy there is a fruity fragrance floating on the breezes that sweep over the laden trees. Away to the left, the long gleaming water-way of the tortuous Huon, crowded with ketches, wanders in and out among the hills, which are here clothed from base to summit with forests of blue and red gum, stringy bark, Tasmanian cedar, and other valuable timber trees.

Now as we glide onward, the homely old city opens out, backed by the steep bulk of Mount Wel­lington, whose tawny shoulders are now streaked with drifted snow. A fortress is here also in course of construction, though it seems, to my civilian eye, to be easily dominated by the heights at the back. Here lies Hobart at our feet, shining in the sun, and climbing, in errant and leisurely fashion, the easy slope which trends upwards from the water's edge.

A knoll projects out into the water in the middle of the city, and the houses cluster thickly round the two bays thus formed. The farther one is seemingly the busiest, as there are the wharves, warehouses, and populous streets. The ware­houses are enormous. The roofs are lichened and grey with age. Alas ! they are mostly empty. The old whaling days, and the days when large convoys sailed in from their six months' voyage, with Government stores and European goods have gone, never to return. The great barracks and long dormitories are silent and deserted now. The big stone buildings, built with a solidity which is all unknown to the contractors of this shoddy age, have a forlorn and desolate look, and there is an unmistakable air of decayed gentility and de­parted grandeur about the place which is some­what depressing. Away on the left, at the head of the little bay, a multitude of gleaming white tombstones marks the site of the city of the dead. These look like the great white bones of stranded whales bleaching and glistening in the sun. To the extreme right a fine stately mass of warm- tinted buildings flanks the city, and affords a charming relief to the eye, as it crowns the low eminence on which it is set. This is Government House, and round about it, encompassing it with a band of silver, steals the gently flowing Derwent, winding past a broken chain of wooded bluffs, which terminate the vista in a confused mist of leafy luxuriance.

We are now nearing the massive wharf. There is timber enough in the structure to make a dozen of our modern wharves. What an old-world look the place has! Many of the houses are built of red bricks, the roofs are brown with lichen, and wrinkled with old age. And yet there is an absence of life and a want of energy and bustle. Lots of badly-dressed young hoodlums loll about, leaning against the great stacks of shingles (Hobart palings) which are piled up in vast quan­tities ready for export. Of these are the fruit-cases made, which take away the wealth of the orchards, for which the island is famous—groups of young girls saunter about arm-in-arm; queer old habitues, clad in quaint garments of antique cut, hobble about and exchange nautical observations with each other. Several dismantled whalers lie at their moorings, and the huge warehouses hem in the scene—silent, deserted, empty.

"There ain't no spurt about the place!" ejaculates an observant Yankee fellow-passenger; and he aptly enough expressed the sensation it gives one who witnesses the whole scene for the first time.

Time seems to be measured by Oriental standards here. All work is done in a leisurely fashion. An old horse is discharging cargo by means of a whim, instead of a steam crane, from a Dutch-looking lugger. Piles of hop bales litter the landing-place, and it would seem almost as if their hypnotic influence had cast a sleepy spell over the whole environment. The very steeples on the old grey churches in the city seem to nod in the gathering haze, and the smoke from the chimneys curls aloft in a somewhat aimless fashion, as if the fires below were all only half alight. An enthusiastic Victorian cannot refrain from com­menting on this general attitude of sleepiness.

"Humph," says he; "there's the effects of free trade for ye—not a blessed factory or a steam engine in the whole place!"

A little boy with a wan, pinched face, and the shabby-genteel look which patched and darned but scrupulously clean clothes gives to the wearer, now accosts us. "Board and residence, sir?" he pipes in a squeaky treble. Poor little fellow, doubtless a sad tale he could tell. And so my gentle little travelling companion with a woman's quick imagination, begins to weave a romance of misfortune and penury, in which the little tout figures as the heir of a noble but decayed family. The mother, a fragile uncomplaining martyr, faith­ful to the shattered fortunes of a gallant husband, and so on and so on! All this was poured into my ears as we sped along, and it was with much difficulty I restrained the tender-hearted little dame from trotting back to verify her romance from the poor boy himself.

In the summer season most of the houses are let to visitors from Sydney and Melbourne, and there are certainly large numbers of decayed gentlewomen and retired officers on half-pay, and such like, who eke out their slender incomes in this fashion.

Here is another evidence of the antiquity of the place. The names of the curious old inns—they transport one back to dear Old England at once. Here is The Queen's Plead, The Bell and Dragon, The Eagle Hawk, the Maypole Inn, and so on through all the old familiar nomenclature. The gable ends elbow their way into the streets ; the bow windows project over the pavements; the mossy roofs, with quaint dormer windows half hidden by trailing creepers, the stone horse troughs and mounting steps, the dovecotes and outside stone stairs to the stables, the old stone walls bulging out in places and tottering to their fall, all speak of "merrie England;" and one can scarce fancy that these dull dead masses on the distant hills are gum-trees, and that this is part of Australasia.

We quickly hire an open landau and are driven by a rosy-faced young Jehu into the open country. The suburbs are very pretty. We pass beautifully- kept gardens, rich lawns, handsome stone houses. Ever and anon one of these quaint old inns. Churches are plentiful. Some have square towers, and are covered with red tiles, which give a warm touch of colour to the landscape. We pass the old orphan schools, now used as an invalid station. Yonder is a pottery—there a bone mill. Here the show and cricket grounds. On all hands grand orchards of great extent, trim rows of cottages, country houses standing back amid great planta­tions of symmetrically planted fruit-trees. On the right the Elwick racecourse, with its grand stand of red brick, and the Launceston railway, running close by; and now in front, the silvery Derwent opens out like a lake; and as we gaze across Glenorchy, with its hop kilns and tannery, and the pretty village of Bryant's Bridge sheltered by high wooded ranges, and nestling cosily round the old square-towered rustic church, we feel the whole charm of the place stealing upon us, and no longer wonder at the fair daughters of Tasmania so loyally main­taining the supremacy of their little island for natural beauty against all rivals.

Having heard so much of the fruit-growing in­dustry of Tasmania, I was anxious to see an orchard for myself. Fortunately, we shared com­mon interests with one of the fine old pioneers of the island, a grand old English gentleman, with cheeks as rosy as his own apples, and a heart as sound and ripe as the sweetest and best of them, though his hair was now whitening, like the almond blossom before the door of his hospitable mansion.

Turning up a lane, between sweet-smelling hedges and goodly rows of chestnuts, with a great expanse of pleasant fruit-trees on either hand, we accord­ingly drove up to the old manor-house, and politely inquired for the proprietor. Our advent had already been observed, and out came the old squire himself to receive us; and no sooner did we make ourselves known to him, than the hearty English welcome we received made us more than ever doubtful that we were not the sport of some beneficent fairy, and that we were not really back in the old country after all.

The manor-house, with its many buildings, was the very picture of an old English homestead. The spacious courtyard, green with grass, sur­rounded by the stables, barns, and outhouses; the running brook close by, wimpling merrily over its pebbly bed; and all around, the trim avenues of neatly pruned fruit-trees and bushes, with the big black bulk of the wooded mountain in the rear, —composed such a picture of rural happiness and contentment as is rarely seen out of "Merrie England." Then the smell of apples about the place. Apples by the ton in the long low lofts and cool spacious granaries ; apples and almonds of the choicer sorts in the verandahs and in sweetly-scented rooms. In the orchard a lovely pond, green with mosses, lustrous with the sheen of sun and water, and fringed with loveliest ferns, was well stocked with fish, which are here acclima­tized, and from which the streamlets are being stocked. From the spacious verandah we look right across the fertile valley to "Rest Down," the earliest settlement in the island, so called because the first people "rested down" here in old Governor Collins's time. Then the broad sweep of the river intervenes, and fifty miles off, the great dividing range of the Table Mountain closes in the scene. The remains of the first chimney built on Tasmanian soil was visible at Rest Down up to twenty years ago.

This particular orchard comprises forty-five acres. Last year the owner sold 2000 bushels of gooseberries, 3000 bushels of currants, and other fruits, including apples. In two years he raised fifty tons of strawberries on the estate. For the last twelve years the average return per acre has been over 60/. I saw two and a half acres of gooseberry bushes, from which 500 bushels of fruit are picked every year, and which are sold at 4s. 6d. per bushel. This beats wheat hollow. On the other side of the estate I was shown over ten acres of fine black soil, beautifully worked, and kept as clean as a Behar indigo field. During the ninth year of its cultivation this small patch yielded 1000 bushels gooseberries and 2000 bushels apples, for which the ruling prices are £4. 6d. to £5. per bushel. And yet if one talks to the ordinary run of Australian farmers about new products, about fruit-growing, tomatoes, vines, oil crops, anything out of the eternal old grind of wheat, and other usual cereals, he is laughed at, sneered at, jeered at, and stigmatized as visionary, conceited, and goodness only knows what else.

Black currant bushes were shown me here, which yield two, and even three bushels per plant, and the fruit is sold readily at 11s. per bushel. To show the enery and practical, management of my host, he showed me where he had walled up a flood-water creek, which used formerly to run riot through the orchard, and the land so reclaimed was being levelled and planted with young trees. He had cut down bush trees and saplings, and made a corduroy road of these, on which he was carting his soil, stones, and material for the work of reclamation. As the garden grew at the far end, the corduroy road was taken up and the wood used for fuel, and the very road was being dug up and made eligible for the reception of more young trees. Nothing is wasted under his able management. Manure is liberally applied, and the inevitable result was everywhere apparent in bounteous returns and substantial plenty.

Along the roads were belts of walnut-trees, and several magnificent almond-trees were pointed out to me, of the fruit of which I partook, and found the almonds simply delicious. And yet such is the prejudice or apathy of the general public, that, my host informed me, his almonds were a drug in the market. Actually 70/. were paid through the custom-house during the last six months for im­ported almonds, while the home-grown article, infinitely superior in quality, was absolutely unsaleable.

You see, protection through the custom-house is not the infallible recipe for "every ill that flesh is heir to" that some "doctrinaire's" would have us suppose.

My old entertainer had very decided opinions about the causes of the prevailing depression and stagnation in the island. When I deplored the lack of energy which I noticed:—

"Bah," said he, "there's plenty energy, but it's misdirected, sir! Our young people will dance at a ball till two or three in the morning, and play lawn tennis all day to boot; but they are too ill and languid to get up to breakfast, and would let their own mother wait on them in bed. They will go to a picnic right up to the top of Mount Welling­ton ; but they are too weak to go two miles to church unless they go in a carriage. Our young people are too well off, sir. Their parents made money in the old times, and the young ones had no inducement to work, when assigned prisoners could be got for 10/. a year. So our young men grew up with no settled industry, no application, and the country feels the curse of indolence and want of enterprise now."

Such was the dictum of my old friend. I make no comment on it. The moral is obvious.

My friend was enthusiastic in his advocacy of orchard farming as against cereals. All his young trees are now on blight-proof stocks. He has up­rooted all his hedges and cultivates right up to his boundary walls, and even trains trees against them. He pointed out the property of a neighbour thirty-four acres in extent, which a few years ago was purchased for 300/. cash. During the first three years the buyer got half his money back, and in two years they took over fifty tons of strawberries from fifteen acres.

"Where is the cereal that can equal that?" triumphantly queried my host. Certes! Echo answers, "Where indeed?"

Another product for which the island has be­come famous is its hops. Since its first introduc­tion in 1822 by Mr. W. Shoobridge, the industry struggled on through many fluctuations, and in 1867 numbers of new growers erected kilns for curing the hops at various places, and hop-growing be­came fairly settled as one of the leading industries in the New Norfolk district. The low prices in 1869—70 checked for a time the progress of the industries, but now it seems fairly established, and as time goes on, adding to the experience of the growers, and their ability to turn out a good article, there seems every reason to predict a great future for Tasmania as a hop-growing country. The lead­ing kinds at present grown are the early white grape,goldings(Canterbury).and lateorgreen grape, and also a very early kind called the red golding.

In 1879 the Agricultural returns give the follow­ing statistics: 587 acres; produce, 738,616 lbs.; value of hops exported, 26,512/.; weight, 558,622 lbs.

After a very pleasant day among the orchards we rejoined the steamer, and sailed for Melbourne during the night.

Next morning we had a beautiful view of the picturesque coast of the goodly little island. Between- Hobart and Swan Island we passed no less than three localities where coal exists. Mines have, in all three places, been opened and since abandoned. There is no doubt that in minerals Tasmania is very rich. Like all the Australian colonies, she only wants capital, and more abundant labour, to become the theatre of busy and remunerative industries. The quid-nuncs of the London Stock Exchange smile and shrug their shoulders at the mention of Australian investments. For the gambling purposes of London jobbers, securities must be readily nego­tiable; and Australian stocks and shares, though offering three, and even four times, the rate of interest obtainable on the floating media of Capel Court, are of course not readily negotiable or vendible, and so for the present they are neglected. The time will come, however, nay, is on the approach now, when capitalists and workers, both, will better understand and more intelligently appreciate the boundless resources of Australasia, and a new era of enterprise and development will undoubtedly set in, which will advance the cause of true Anglo-Saxon federation more than all the fussy claptrap of irresponsible theorists, who speak so much and really do so little.

As an illustration of how really little is known of Australia, even by those who might be imagined to know most; the captain, as we were talking on this theme, pointed out to me the Flinders Island which we pass between Hobart and Melbourne. This group contains more land than all Samoa, about which so much fuss is being made at present, and which has almost led to a grave imbroglio between some of the European great powers. The Flinders are by all reports rich in mineral wealth, and yet they are practically ignored, and their very existence unknown to the great majority even of Victorians, who are so enthusiastic (and I for one do not blame them,) about the conquest of South Sea Islands, the annexation of New Guinea, and the opening up of new markets for Victorian manufactures. The islands contain a population of some sixty individuals, mostly half-castes, the result of the intermarriage of runaway sailors with Tasmanian aborigines. Sheep and cattle are reared by these islanders, but no attention is paid to growing either wool or beef on a commercial scale. They make a living which suffices for all their simple wants out of their flocks and herds, and their diet is eked out with the eggs and oil of the mutton bird, both of which they also export.

The bird itself, after the oil is expressed, is smoked, and forms one more antipodean paradox. It is familiarly known as the Australian smoked herring, and yet it is a bird. A toasted smoked mutton bird, both in smell, taste, and colour, is scarcely distinguishable from a smoked bloater. They are said to be very nourishing, and invalids find them toothsome and appetizing.

Maria Island, one of the group, has been leased to an Italian for the purpose of trying to intro­duce silk culture.

Amid a succession of icy squalls we reached Hobson's Bay, threaded our devious way up the unsavoury Yarra, and were pleased once more to take up our quarters in that most homely and comfortable of caravanserais, Menzie's Hotel, and so for the present we bid a reluctant adieu to our New Zealand cousins.


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