Words by Len Langan and Photos by Dan Fellow
Fingal dates back to 1824 and the early Tasmanian surveys undertaken by Roderic O’Connor and the gifted fellow surveyor John Helder Wedge who left us a rich record of his work and the people he met during his courageous life. It is believed that it was named by O’Connor although some say by James Grant who settled here in 1821.
The town was certainly known as Fingal in 1827 but the earlier date can be taken as an historic record of early settlement. One of the glories of this charming township is the Anglican Church (St.Peter’s) built in 1867/69. It has some stained glass windows that are a wonderful example of this art.
Fingal: Tasmanian Convict Heritage
Fingal was established as a convict station during the exciting years between 1824 and 1827 being one of four stations with St Marys, Falmouth and Avoca. Convicts were employed to build roads and bridges and to develop farming land. It is not hard to find some of their buildings in this area and the convict station buildings still stand on the west side of Fingal.
Gold was found at Mangana in 1852 and at Mathinna both within 20km of Fingal. By 1886 coal was mined at Cornwall near St Marys leading on to its mining at Fingal. Mines that are still active and highly productive producing 10,000 tonnes a week.
Coal Mining, Railway, Agriculture and Soon… Tourism
The coal mining brought the railway linking Avoca, Fingal and St Marys in 1885 as part of the main Launceston to Hobart line. It carried vast quantities of coal, timber, livestock and agricultural produce. A line not without some fatal disasters that once killed a construction supervisor and injured a rail worker and his wife when the train jumped the Avoca points, and another spill that killed the engine driver and fatally wounded the fireman.
The line now ends at Fingal’s coal washing plant, and the station has fallen into disrepair but there are plans to renovate it as a tourist attraction.
Natural Beauty of the Fingal Valley
For tourists travelling down the east coast it is a worthwhile detour capturing an impression of the lonely isolation experienced by the early settlers in a previous age when travel was on foot, horseback or horse drawn vehicles.
For those who adore the spectacular sights of nature an easy 15 minute drive from Fingal on a good unmade road takes you to the glorious Mathinna Falls dropping 80 metres in four dramatic cascades 40 to 50 meters from the car park.
Len Langan lives in Longford with his wife Jill. They are both passionate
about Tasmanian heritage and tourism and things that can be done in this
industry. Len writes about Tasmanian history for both The Courier in Longford
and the magazine Sagacity, and works with Virtuosi taking music to rural areas.
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