of the Old Tasmanian Bushmen
Well known bushman and
head ranger of the Cradle Mountain / Lake St. Clair National Park in the
1930s, Arthur D. Fergusson, better known as "Fergy", often spoke of seeing
tiger tracks in the snow in the Lake Hugel area of the park. On one
occasion, Fergy found tell-tale signs in the snow revealing a tiger's relentless
pursuit of a Bennett's wallaby right into the freezing waters of the lake.
In 1914, a wartime emergency
arose when a German submarine was reported lurking in Bathurst Harbour
along the West Coast. Its mission was to intercept a convoy of troop
ships leaving Hobart, and the government of the day was stung into action
to prevent a pending catastrophe. Authorities quickly organised a
party that comprised some of the finest local bushmen, including Frank
Marriott and Albert Quarrell of Tyenna, along with the government statistician,
Frank Giblin. Two notable absentees were Tom Marriott of Tyenna and
John McCallum of National Park, both unavailable at the time. The
party walked the old Port Davey Track, originally cut as a lifeline for
mariners shipwrecked along the wild West Coast. The track had lain
unused since the 920-ton iron bark the Brier Holme was wrecked in 1905,
and few had intimate knowledge of traversing this rugged terrain.
Fortunately the information proved incorrect, and when no evidence of enemy
activity was discovered, homing pigeons were released at Bathurst harbour
to relay the good news to authorities in Hobart.
John McCallum did walk
the track alone a few years later, save for his young fox terrier dog.
Travelling by boat from Hobart to Strahan, McCallum became so ill with
seasickness that he begged the captain to let him and his dog off near
Port Davey. The pup found it hard to keep up the pace and John was
forced to carry it most of the way home. The pair had not travelled
far before becoming aware of a large Tasmanian tiger tagging along behind.
The tiger followed them for several days, even keeping watch from a safe
distance as they slept close to their camp fire. Eventually, the
tiger dropped off as the pair made their way across the Arthur Plains to
Junction Creek. John McCallum had a good knowledge of the Tasmanian
tiger, having claimed bounty on at least four tigers, all caught in the
Ellendale-National Park areas of the Derwent Valley. This grand old
Tasmanian bushman passed on aged 99 years in 1978.
Albert Quarrell of Brighton,
with a thylacine killed in December 1911 at Fitzgerald, west of New Norfolk.
The man visible in the background is D. Pearce, a
well known thylacine trapper of the time. Initially, Quarrell had
wanted to capture this thylacine alive, knowing that it was far more valuable
living than dead because of the high price that zoos were willing to pay
for them (Bailey, 2001).
Albert Quarrell found fame when he shot a Tasmanian tiger discovered agitating
his bullock team while logging in the forest near Tyenna in December 1911.
Grabbing the tiger by the tail, Quarrell was savaged when the animal managed
to sink its teeth into him and he was forced to let go. Summoning
help from other bushmen working in the forest nearby, together they managed
to corner it in a patch of scrub, where it was shot. The carcass
was sold to a local photographer, Charles Brown. The event lives
on through a now famous photograph (above) of Albert Quarrell sitting in
the bush with his "trophy" across his knees.
There were a host of trailblazers emanating from the Tyenna region in the
early years of last century; all top bushmen in their own right.
Men of the calibre of J. G. Timbs, Lewis Chaplin, Robert, Percy, Robert
Snr, Frank Marriott and Walter Mullins, plus the Salter brothers and Jim
Loveluck from Fitzgerald to name a few.
Pioneer families had
pushed up the valley late in the 19th century, hacking their
way through the thick blackwood forests lining the Tyenna River to take
up selections in the virgin bush in what was to become known as Tyenna.
For the more adventurous, from there the long, hard slog began into the
Florentine Valley and beyond to the Gordon River country of the southwest.
Further settlements were established; first at Fitzgerald and later at
The mainstays of the
bushman's diet were bacon, damper,
tea and rice; this supplemented by locally snared or shot game. The
old bushmen told tales of the tiger prowling around bush camps at night,
lured in by bacon fat left in frying pans around the camp fire; it appeared
the tiger had a love of pork products. They said a tiger will follow
a wallaby relentlessly through the bush until it collapses through sheer
exhaustion, and that the tiger is a very timid animal, easily scared off
by bright lights at night; an animal that will follow you through the bush
making a pig-like clopping noise, and that in the wild, it only ever eats
what it kills itself, never touching carrion. The old yarn that domestic
dogs were terrified of tigers didn't always ring true. The majority
of dogs were; the mere whiff of a tiger's scent sending even the toughest
of canines running the other way. Some dogs were especially trained
from the cradle to hunt tigers, and the best evidence of this is found
in the records of the Van Diemen's Land Company at Woolnorth. These
dogs were large, rangy, staghound / Irish wolfhound crosses that worked
in pairs, the lightly-built tiger quickly falling victim to their vicious
Circa 1910 photo of
Woolnorth "tiger men" George (Jnr) and Bob Wainright (at far right).