Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Up Front - RACHEL ED­WARDS

This is an im­pec­ca­bly re­searched, clearly writ­ten history of North­East Tas­ma­nia, an area that is rich in an­cient cul­ture, mar­itime history and agri­cul­tural set­tle­ments.

Author John Beswick is a former deputy premier of Tas­ma­nia and sixth-gen­er­a­tion Tas­ma­nian whose an­ces­tors were among the first white pi­o­neers in the re­gion. His ob­vi­ous af­fil­i­a­tion and per­sonal knowl­edge of the re­gion shine through the book and he has an es­pe­cially en­dear­ing style of writ­ing about sea­far­ers.

The book cov­ers in de­tail first con­tact, the seal­ers, the fron­tier wars waged in the early days of coloni­sa­tion, the farm­ers and the in­dus­tries. It con­tains a wealth of cu­ri­ous anec­dotes, some of which in­clude men­tion of the es­caped con­victs who be­came pi­rates and ran ves­sels around Preser­va­tion Is­land. A Mrs El­iza Bowen is said to have gone grey overnight af­ter see­ing the Loch Fin­las, a large bar­que bound for Peru, founder and wreck. It is said gen­er­a­tions of lo­cals have en­joyed pos­ses­sion of beau­ti­ful sets of crock­ery sal­vaged from the ves­sel.

While gen­er­ally com­pelling, the book be­comes a lit­tle dry for the lay reader to­wards the end, cov­er­ing in great de­tail pas­toral leases and de­tails of live­stock. Luck­ily, th­ese swaths are bro­ken up with in­trigu­ing, some­times poignant sto­ries of in­di­vid­u­als and po­lit­i­cal in­trigue whose ten­drils still hold the state in sway today.

While the book con­tains lots of de­tail, it does not cover the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity in the North-East af­ter the de­cline of the seal­ing in­dus­try. This is, un­for­tu­nately, a com­mon over­sight.

The years that Beswick spent on his metic­u­lous re­search have cer­tainly paid off. This is a com­pre­hen­sive book that ex­plores an area of Tas­ma­nia that does not have many books ded­i­cated to it.

Forty South con­tin­ues to pub­lish strongly, aug­ment­ing a rich writ­ten Tas­ma­nian history, and this book is a prime ex­am­ple. While it is not a book for ev­ery­one, fo­cused as it is on such a tiny pocket of the world, it is a ter­rific book for those in­ter­ested in the re­gion, as well as re­cent Tas­ma­nian history and de­vel­op­ment.

John Beswick’s years of metic­u­lous re­search for Tas­ma­nia’s For­got­ten Fron­tier have paid off.

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