No. 1.6 - A Visit to Lakes Sorell and Crescent

Otago Witness , Issue 1896, 23 March 1888, Page 15

Having finished up my inspection of the Waverley stud farm, Mr Agnew invited me to the Lakes. At 4 in the afternoon we made a start, the company consisting of Mr C. S. Agnew on a thoroughbred chestnut, Dr Crampton having under him a fiery steed known as Dr Moriarty's halfbred Clydesdale Turpin, Mr Algernon Page and " Warrior " being satisfied with cattle who could comfortably negotiate a mile in 5min 59sec. After a pleasant ride of two hours we arrived at Mr Page's hut, situated on the Lakes, shortly before nightfall. Next morning we rose early, and were soon floating on the waters of Lake Sorell, 3500 ft above the level of the sea.

Lakes Sorell and Crescent are distant from Oatlands 16 miles, and about the same from Tunbridge and Bothwell. Before reaching Oatlands you pass near Lakes Delverton [sic] and Tiberius. The traveller passes right between the two lakes, on a good road fit for a buggy, to the Great Lake (via Sorell and Crescent), and is by far the picked route by tourists, whereas the route by Bothwell over Shannon Tier is the route a great many tourists travel, thereby missing the opportunity of seeing Sorell and Crescent, eight miles from Laycock's Lake (the prettiest lake of all), and about 14 miles from Arthur's Lake. All these other sheets of water are easily accessible from headquarters (Mr Page's house of accommodation), so that visitors can get to see all these lakes from the one starting point — namely, instead of making direct from Bothwell to the Great Lakes, where there is no accommodation excepting tents and "roughing it." The scenery of Lake Sorell your correspondent will not very easily forget. It is beyond my power as a sporting writer to describe. All I can say is that Lakes Sorell and Crescent lay immediately under the Table Mountain, and abound in wild duck and swan, while on the road round the shore are kangaroo, wallabi, and the ordinary vermin, such as the, tiger, badger, and the Tasmanian devil. There are thousands of rabbits on the road from Waverley to the Lakes, and any number of rock pigeons and other birds. Lake Crescent is not so deep as Sorell, nor as large, being about 30 miles long. This lake has had a quantity of valuable trout put into it, and this next year should provide good fishing. Lake Sorell is divided from Lake Crescent by a narrow channel, and is filled by the waters of the first named. These lakes, excepting a quarter of a mile from the shore, graduate in depths from 15ft to 30ft. Two years ago there was a large quantity of Californian trout deposited in them, and they now abound in fish. Had we had sufficient time on hand we could have easily angled a couple of buckets of trout in an hour.

The wind having sprung up from the westward, Dr Crampton soon had us sailing towards Diamond Beach, a favourite place for visitors, where beautiful camellias and other flowers are easily obtained. Close inshore, and near Diamond Beach, stood the ruins of the huts of the Irish exiles of days gone by. There may be seen the ruins of the erections in which Smith O'Brien and his fellow patriots once lived. I doubt very much if there are 20 Irishmen in Australia and New Zealand who know of this lovely spot. I might mention in this connection that in the year 1848 a number of political prisoners arrived in Tasmania, conspicuous among them being Messrs Terence McManus, Kevin Izod O'Doherty, Smith O'Brien, Thomas Francis O'Meagher, and Patrick O'Donohue. These men were transported for the part they took in the Irish Rebellion of 1848. Terence McManus was the first political prisoner who took up his residence at the Lakes, and who really possessed the huts spoken of above. He used to invite Smith O'Brien, John Mitchell, and others to stay with him, as they were all allowed their liberty on parole. McManus was once very harshly treated by the authorities. A slavedriver named Mason, who afterwords became police magistrate at Launceston, having had a few words with McManus, had him arrested for having crossed the border — that is to say, he had simply removed from one side of the street to the other, 20yds separating the two boundaries. For this trivial offence Mason ordered McManus to gaol, and for the first time during his sojourn in Van Diemen's Land he had to don the prison garments. The Irishmen of Launceston were so incensed at Mason's conduct that the judges were appealed to, and McManus was thereupon liberated. Shortly after this occurrence McManus and John Mitchell made good their escape to Launceston, where by the help of Messrs George and Edward Dease, and a well-known priest who has gone the way of all flesh, they made good their escape. Mitchell travelled by way of the coast, and a boatman still residing in Launceston smuggled McManus down the River Tamar, where he found everything waiting for him. McManus wrote a bundle of letters to a gentleman now residing in Melbourne, who allowed me to peruse the same. I would have published several of them in the Witness had it not been for the fact that such letters might have hurt the feelings of many people. All I can say is that God forbid that such barbarous days should ever come again ! Three hundred lashes were often meted out to unfortunate men who had the audacity to refuse to work when they were more fit to be inmates of the gaol hospital. Poor McManus didn't long survive the cruel treatment he received as a political prisoner, as he died in San Francisco, after lingering for some months. Although our boat was a pretty fast one, it took us some time to reach St. George's Island, which is situated a few miles from Diamond Beach. This island abounds in wild goats, and is about a seven miles' sail. It has beautiful bays and points all around. Mount Wellington overlooks this lake and also the Western Tier. On the road down the tier the scenery is some of the best to be found in Tasmania. From the Old Man's Head you can see Mount Wellington, Hobart, Sorell, and nearly to Launceston through the Cressy. Mr Algernon Page had a number of men at work building a new house of accommodation when " Warrior " visited the Lakes, and he informed me that he intends supplementing this building in time for next season by erecting a large house which will contain 100 rooms in suites, so as to accommodate families for a month or two at a time. This place would make a splendid sanatorium, the mountain and lake air and beautiful spring water being extremely invigorating to invalids. I can speak for myself, being in a very low state of health before visiting the lakes, but I left it well and hearty, and would have liked to remain a couple of months instead of a day or two. There is a splendid road to Lakes Sorell and Crescent from Tunbridge over the Western Tier, and they are now making an excellent road from Oatlands, which will be ready in time for visitors next year. Mr Algernon Page intends building his accommodation house on land between the two lakes, which will be converted into polo grounds, tennis courts, &c.; whilst Lake Sorell, upon which there are now three comfortable rowing and sailing boats, will see a steam launch, and I hope in time to come a boat race.


Before taking our departure for the Waterley homestead Dr Crampton and myself interviewed the old hutkeeper and his wife. He openly stated that he had been lagged twice and sentenced to die thrice. The authorities being unable to control him they packed him off to Norfolk Island. Whilst there he was sentenced to die for aiding a fellow prisoner to escape. After his reprieve he joined the "Harmy" and having " got saved " he was allowed to return to Port Arthur, and got his ticket of leave. Since then nearly 40 years have elapsed, and he has lived about Oatlands and the Lakes during all that time. He is really harmless, but his " old woman " possesses a countenance that stamps her as having been in her day one of the worst of convicts. She led the female prisoners on to the warders in the Cascade female mutiny, when no less than 50 women broke loose like fiends because they refused to eat the bread supplied to them, For this offence she was sentenced to die, but like the old man she joined the " Harmy " and was " saved. " On our way Home we passed through a once bushranging country and a swamp known as "Michael Howie's," Howie was a very kind gentleman to travellers; so much so that the Governor-general outlawed him, and a big reward was offered for him dead or alive. He fell a victim to his friends, and his head was conveyed in a bag to Hobart Town. Passing through this swamp the doctor's horse, Turpin, a very spirited animal, didn't seem to like the country or the doctor's legs, as he began prancing and snorting. We advised the doctor to dismount and turn the legs of his trousers up to his knees, which he did. The doctor was no sooner on his back than off went Turpin for a six-furlong spin. I will never forget the sight ; John Gilpin was nothing to it. After a ride of 15 miles we all arrived home in safety, and replenished our keen appetites. Next morning Mr Agnew drove Dr Crampton and myself over to -


Mr Algernon Page's estate, Which comprises 5000 acres. It is about the oldest estate in Tasmania, having been taken up in the earliest days by Mr Thomas Anstey, the first land commissioner, and its stands to reason he did not pick out the worst land. It contained a very large tenantry, and was the chief support some years ago to Oatlands township, distant about three and a-half miles. It is now let to only three tenants, whereas it used to number 400 souls all told. Mr Page is now cutting it up into small farms. About 4000 out of 5000 acres have been cultivated, and grows splendid wheat. Messrs James Gibson and David Taylor have averred that there is no better adapted place in the " tight little island " for stud sheep and cattle breeding. These two gentlemen are the most experienced pastoralists in Tasmania, and their opinion goes a long way. From what I could see of the land it takes very much after that at Christchurch, with one exception— viz , Anstey Barton is surrounded by sloping hills and valleys. The chief homesteads on Mr Page's estate are known as Glastonbury Vale, Leithwick, Frampton Hills, Exminster Tier, Simon's Hill, and Anstey Barton, the homestead of the proprietor. Mr Algernon Page reserves 700 acres, which he cultivates, and has a nice little pure merino stud flock, obtained from Mr David Taylor, which will be heard of some day. Mr Page informed me that he intends going in for pure Devon breeding, and he has in his paddocks a few brood mares which he intends sending to The Assyrian. From what I could gather Anstey Barton estate has the reputation of being second to none in Tasmania, being adapted for all kinds of agricultural, pastoral, or stud breeding purposes. Several of the leases fall in during the present year, and the estate will be divided into small farms, ranging from 100 acres to 500 acres.

"Warrior" will in his next article deal with the oldest lunatic asylum in Australia— viz., the New Norfolk Asylum — where one inmate has resided nearly half a century.