For visitors to Flinders Island, it’s worth doing a bit of ground work before visiting Wybalenna, Settlement Point, Port Davies and Lillie’s Bay. When you arrive at these places you will probably be the only people there with nobody to ask for the history of these sites. A good example of this being my visits to Wybalenna where I came away, on two occasions, without knowing that convicts were held there as well as Tasmanian Aborigines.
Port Davies and Lillie’s Bay: Mystery History
I took plenty of photos at all of the above but now I’m trying to write about them I have become aware of how little I know about the history. Amazingly, there is very little information on the internet for much of Flinders Island but I did find relevant snippets from The Examiner of the time.
Furneaux Museum, Emita
The Furneaux Museum, Emita, is a good starting point for any visitor. It’s a fantastic museum with so much to see and an amazing collection of all things Furneaux Group. You need to allow at least two hours for this experience but check the opening times before you go. The volunteer staff will help you with anything you need to know but don’t expect to be taking photos of the countless treasures and displays.
Major T.H. Davies
Port Davies was named after Major T.H. Davies who was the Minister for Lands and Works at the time of the opening of the harbour in 1939. The jetty was 376ft. long and 70ft. wide with a price tag of 4422 pounds.
At the opening, Major Davies cut blue and gold ribbons (his regimental colours) and praised the Harbour League for its fine work. He then visited the Cape Barren island schools, a fish factory and a dance at the Emita hall before leaving on the MV Loatta.
Although the old jetty doesn’t exist, Port Davis is used for launching boats but my interest was the viewing platform where you can watch the short-tailed shearwaters (mutton birds, moon birds or yolla) come and go. Their arrival from the Arctic is around September and the departure in April or May. Amazingly the birds return to the same burrow as the previous year after a grueling 15,000km trip!
Standing on the beach at Lillie’s Bay I was attracted by the appearance of the timber poles and rusted iron that forms the remains of the jetty. I appreciated the importance of the jetty for receiving provisions and sustaining life on the island. Lillie’s Bay was named after John Lillie who was the secretary for the Royal Society in the 1840s. The name was given by the Commandant at Wybalenna, Dr.Milligan.
Lillie’s Bay Jetty
*On 21 April 1893, the SS Yolla arrived from Hobart with timber poles. She anchored for the night before proceeding to Settlement Point where the poles were unloaded for Lillie’s Bay jetty. Five men who had arrived with the SS Yolla on a previous visit were busy driving piles under the watchful eye of a Government Inspector, Mr. H. Calder and contractor Mr. Hodgson.
At the same time, Messrs G. Boyse and F. Collis successfully tendered to build a bridle track from Settlement Point to connect the northern residents at a cost of 2 pounds per mile!
Lillie’s Bay is a favourite with the locals and visitors alike. Giant boulders provide good shelter and privacy. There are basic facilities for camping but it’s essential to be self-sufficient when it comes to food, water and firewood. As with so many beaches in Tasmania, for most of the year you will be the sole occupant and if you feel like doing some skinny dipping only the eyes of a wallaby will see you!
Calling Tasmanian Island Historians
If you live on Flinders Island and you can expand on relevant history, I would love to hear from you. I have a special interest in the influence of sealers and whalers and songs that they may have brought to the Bass Strait islands.
*This information was gathered from The Examiner of 10 May 1893 and 3 August 1893 and used in my own words. The reports at that time covered events from the previous month. Not like today where news transmits in seconds!
Roger Findlay spends all his holidays in Tasmania, then writes about the experience for Think Tasmania. If you’d like Roger to visit you in the name of research (so we can publish information about your business), please contact us.
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