Cel­e­bra­tions open up two cen­turies of fam­ily sto­ries

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - BRUCE MOUNSTER

YARNS were swapped by de­scen­dants of con­victs and their masters at Woolmers Es­tate as they cel­e­brated the prop­erty’s 200th an­niver­sary last week­end.

Woolmers re­mains a time cap­sule from the early days of Euro­pean set­tle­ment, when the work­ers were con­victs and the gen­try ruled.

About 100 guests were re­minded of the pos­i­tives of the pe­nal sys­tem that en­abled en­light­ened landown­ers – such as the Archer fam­ily who set­tled at Woolmers in 1817 – to re­pay bet­ter-be­haved con­victs with trust, re­spect and a gen­uine shot at re­form.

Nancy Higgins from Vic­to­ria and Denise Odgers from Burnie are de­scen­dants of con­vict Joseph Moore.

Their an­ces­tor flour­ished at Woolmers, start­ing as a shep­herd in 1817 and end­ing as an over­seer in 1827, but the women have found his good for­tune came at a cost.

Ms Higgins is a de­scen­dant of Moore’s first wife, who had been left be­hind in Eng­land. Ms Odgers is a de­scen­dant of Moore’s sec­ond wife, whom he mar­ried in Tas­ma­nia af­ter gain­ing his free­dom.

The two women were put in touch 27 years ago.

“Since then it’s a pas­sion for us”, Ms Higgins said.

A part­ner­ship that might have raised eye­brows in the 19th cen­tury in­volves David Boon (not the crick­eter) of Bea­cons­field, a de­scen­dant of Thomas Wil­liam Birch, a sur­geon and prom­i­nent land owner whose wife Sarah had an is­land pe­nal colony in Mac­quarie Har­bour named af­ter her, and Sonya Forsyth, a de­scen­dant of Daniel Ellis who was a lowly con­vict at Woolmers.

Chris Par­sons, of River­side, said her an­ces­tor’s his­tory as a con­vict at Woolmers had been a fam­ily se­cret and she only learned about it last year.

“It was a huge sur­prise,’’ she said.

Ka­t­rina Archer, whose fam­ily are de­scen­dants in the fifth and sixth gen­er­a­tion of the Archers who set­tled Woolmers, took on a ser­vant’s role at the func­tion as a vol­un­teer staff mem­ber.

“We have learned so much from the dis­cus­sions between the con­vict de­scen­dants and the farm­ing de­scen­dants. We have gained a lot of in­sight,’’ said Ms Archer, whose fam­ily con­tin­ues to farm nearby.

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