of the Old Tasmanian Bushmen
A fine latter day bushman
Malley of Trowutta, in northwest Tasmania. Malley is best
remembered for his concentrated efforts to find the Tasmanian tiger when
he teamed with young New South Wales adventurer Jeremy Griffiths in the
late 1960s. Together, they scoured Tasmania for four years in search
of the tiger, finally ending their search unrewarded. Malley continued
on for many years, undaunted in his belief that the tiger had survived.
There were a group of accomplished bushmen who were the principal suppliers
of Tasmanian tigers to the Beaumaris Zoo at both its original location
in the Hobart suburb of Sandy Bay, as well as at its eventual site on the
Queen's Domain. In the early years of last century, these men trapped
the Florentine Valley, 60 miles south of Hobart, for the elusive tiger
with some success; men of the calibre of Paddy O'May, Walter Mullins, Jim
Salter, Elias Churchill, Jack Ellis, Bill Briant, Jim Loveluck and Bill
Power to name a few. Mullins is best remembered for trapping a mother
and three young up behind Tyenna in 1924. For many years, one of
these animals was believed to be the world's last captive tiger, dying
at the zoo in 1936. However, later evidence has revealed that it
was in fact the tiger trapped near Adamsfield by Elias Churchill in 1933
near Adamsfield that was actually the last held in the zoo.
| High Country snarers
often swapped their shepherding duties of the warmer months for a seasonal
jaunt working the lucrative fur trade, in which they could make many times
their normal salary in a few months. There were also many others
who regularly trapped during the colder months, some resident, others transient,
and most of this activity took place along the Central Plateau. One
of the best known was Arthur Youd, who regularly snared for over 60 years
Lake Meston, where he had built a hut. The Lake Country shepherds
led a hard life, made harder by the severe weather fluctuations that could
strike without warning. To a beginner, the vagaries of the weather
could quickly bring about their undoing.
Reg Trigg was used to
the cooler climate, having come from the Victorian highlands in the summer
of 1929. He trapped around the Lake Country for many years, and is
best known for taking alive a young Tasmanian tiger he named Lucy.
Keeping her penned at his bush camp for several months, Reg and Lucy formed
a close bond in their mutual admiration, which eventually ended when Reg
released her back into the wild.
It was fairly common
for high country shepherds to take up a seasonal trap run once their flocks
were moved down to the low country for the winter; prime examples being
Tom Fleming, Jacky Reid, Stump Jordan and
Basil Lee, who trapped along the plateau. Will Jenkins and his brothers
were out to exact revenge when they took to the Bronte area of the plateau
with fourteen-bore Cashmore muzzle-loading guns and large, robust greyhound
/ staghound cross dogs. They suspected tigers of killing their sheep,
and tracked the tigers in the snow in search of their lairs.
Tasmanian trapper's hut strung with the corpses of thylacines and wallabies.
Sights such as this were an all too common feature of the Tasmanian countryside
during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This photo was taken by Arthur
E. Warde of Waratah prior to 1906. It shows his hut with the day's
kill hung prior to skinning. As well as being a photographer, Warde
was also the last resident tigerman at the Mt. Cameron West hut on the
VDL's property at Woolnorth.
|Success followed as many of the alleged
sheep killers were run to ground and eliminated. Jim Poynton killed
two tigers near Lake Mackenzie, Will Shelley shot one near Mt. Penny, and
Mrs. Rigley (yes, there were bushwomen too) trapped another at Soldier's
Marsh. Together with the government bounty and generous rewards from
squatters, there was money to be made from a dead thylacine and by the
1930s, the animal was quickly being exterminated.
Dick Reid was one of the best known bushmen last century, as he roamed
far and wide in some of the wilder, less settled areas of Tasmania.
Born into wealth and privilege, Dick loved to explore as well as build
huts at the various localities he visited during his travels.
During one of his adventures,
Dick and a mate left Evandale in 1919 and travelled on horseback to Mole
Creek. From there, they journeyed on foot for a further eighteen
days before emerging in the Vale of Rasselas along the Gordon River; a
massive journey across a great swathe of trackless wilderness. Reid
leased the Vale for a while, building a hut and running cattle there in
the days before Ernie Bond's tenure.
from an article in the Mercury newspaper of the 14 July 1937 (p. 5).
The trapper or snarer would usually begin returning to their run in December
to burn off old vegetation, encouraging new growth which would in turn
attract suitable game. The new season began anywhere from between
May and July, this according to state regulations. Once licensed,
they would pack in their supplies manually or by pack horse, usually a
week or two before the season commenced. Rough shelters were then
repaired or constructed, huts refurbished; these usually being close to
timber stands and water. Some of the huts were quite palatial, while
others were mere
|shelters built from whatever materials
were available on-site. The ingenuity of these men was legendary,
as was their ability to improvise and make do with what they had.
There were various methods used in snaring; mainly the springer and legger
snare. Whatever the technique, the aim was to secure an undamaged
fur. There were a great many complexities to overcome before a saleable
pelt was achieved. It was not a game for the uninitiated, and newcomers
to the trade had
a lot to learn in a very
short time. The trapping and snaring of animals was eventually banned
in Tasmania 1984. Shooting game was another effective method, provided
that one was a good shot. The correct skinning of the pelt was an
art in itself, for a poorly presented pelt severely cut the profit margin.