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.