Holly Kerr Forysth: a convict family’s legacy.
The enterprising spirit of a teenage convict girl is evident at her son’s historic property in Tasmania
If ever there is an example of how much can be achieved in this country — if you have energy and application — it is the story of Thomas Reibey, who in 1819 built Entally House near the village of Hadspen in northern Tasmania. Thomas was the eldest son of Mary Reibey who, as 14-year-old Mary Haydock, was transported to the colony of New South Wales in 1792 as punishment for stealing a horse.
The day after her arrival, in a letter to her aunt Mrs Hope in Lancashire dated October 8, 1792 (the oldest surviving letter sent from the colony), Mary wrote:
I write this on Board of ship but it looks a pleasant place — I will Watch every oppertunity to Get away in too or 3 years But will make my self as happy as I can ... I am well and hearty as ever I was in my life ...
In 1794 she married Thomas Reibey, a junior marine officer, and together they had seven children.
After her husband’s death in 1811, Mary (whose face is featured on our $20 note) took over his businesses and, through hard work and talent, amassed vast landholdings in NSW and Tasmania.
She wrote to her cousin Alice in 1818:
The Estate that I have lately purchased at Van die-mans Land of 2000 acres that I purchased as an entail on my Children ... so that my yearly Income is one Thousand pounds ... but no one will do well that is not thrifty correct and Sober this place is not like England you are under the Eye of every one and your Character Scrutinized by both rich and poor ...
In 1821, her son George praised her in a letter to his cousin David Hope in Glasgow as “a Mother — whose long anxious and the great exertion for the improvement and future happiness of her children was scarcely ever surpassed”.
In the way of many colonists who, once they became successful, sent their children “home” to be educated, Mary’s great grandson was sent to Eton: his letters can be read in the Mitchell wing of the State Library of NSW.
Today, Entally House is set in 35ha of park-like grounds and gardens; the convict-built house, chapel, coach house and stables are open for inspection.
You arrive through a long drive bordered with mature oaks planted in the 1820s and edged in English box ( Buxus sempervirens) over which rhododendron spill, in full flower in mid-November. The end of the drive is punctuated by a massive Himalayan cedar ( Cedrus deo-dara) thought to be more than 180 years old, the seed brought back from one of the overseas voyages made by Thomas’s son.
An Atlantic cedar ( C. atlantica), with its beautiful grey needles, is set in the middle of the expansive lawn, shading the homestead. To the east a large greenhouse and picking garden, renovated in the 1970s, is today filled with lupins, iris, roses and aquilegias. This area would have been planted originally for food production, with vegetable and flower gardens close to the kitchen.
The orchards were planted further from the house.
The end of the drive is punctuated by a massive Himalayan cedar, thought to be more than 180 years old
A new vegetable garden is the initiative of the local TAFE college, which runs its horticulture courses in the grounds and supplies beans, lettuce, corn, tomatoes and herbs to the new Entally cafe. The conservatory, the oldest in Australia, houses a marvellous begonia display.
A long border, opposite the house with its inviting, shaded veranda, is filled with heavily scented roses, particularly rugosa roses: the hot pink ‘Bleak House’ and the silver-pink ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’. Other roses in this bed, which is constrained by a sweep of catmint ( Nepeta faassini), include ‘Climbing Pinkie’, the golden ‘Lady Hillingdon’, and the blowsy moss rose ‘Marie de Blois’, named for a daughter of Louis IV. This border also houses delphiniums, tulips and daffodils. These delightful gardens are tended by volunteers, who also guide people through the house and relate the rich
history of the Reibey family.
• Entally hosts Gardenfest each November. Weddings are held in the grounds every weekend during the spring and summer. For information on opening days and hours, and for other events held at this lovely property, go to entally.com.au. • Another marvellous display of begonias can be seen in Cook Park in Orange, central west NSW. Preparations for the city’s 25th annual food week, to be held April 8-17, are in full swing and the F.O.O.D. website for 2016 has just been launched. Go to orangefoodweek.com.au.
Entally House, the historic home of the son of convict settler Mary Reibey, left, has a garden filled with roses, herbs, rhododendron and some impressive trees