by Gina Scott
First of all let’s just clarify: north east Tasmania has a very rich mining history. Early European settlers and the Chinese came looking for gold in the late 1800s, but found tin instead. The hills of north east Tasmania are dotted with mining relics and “scratchings”, some are still visible today.
The Trail of the Tin Dragon has been developed between St Helens and Launceston with a strong focus on the Tin Centre at Derby, to allow the visitor an opportunity to absorb some of this rich history. The Brisies Tin Mine was one of the richest in Australia, but there is a tragic story to be told about this mine too.
If you start your journey of discovery in St Helens, you will need to visit the History Room, where you will learn about some of the early mine sites and become familiar with the “lay of the land”. Such names as Maa Mon Chin Dam, now a beautiful picnic spot near Weldborough; Lottah, Poimena, Blue Tier and the Anchor Stampers, are all names that will pop up as you follow the discovery trail.
Should you end up in Launceston at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Wellington Street, you will also be amazed at the perfectly preserved Chinese Joss House retrieved from a site at Weldborough. On your way through to Derby you should take a detour to the cemetery at Moorina, where you’ll discover some of the early miners graves.
“In the early 1900s Derby was once a bustling town with three hotels, boarding houses, a doctor’s residence, hospital, three churches, three grocers, two bakers, two butchers, a jeweller, draper, bookmaker, cordial factory and a school, plus a few other small businesses necessary to keep everyone supplied.” So the history books tell us!
More to Derby Than Meets the Eye
Today Derby still looks after visitors with all the required services, cafes, accommodation, hotel and interesting shops to browse, including a bookshop. Try some of Anne’s home cooking at Berries Cafe; everyone raves about the scones and coffee! Oh and be sure to check out the gorgeous cards at The Hobbyts’ Dragon.
Just to walk up and down the streets marvelling at all the timber architecture is worth a stop. Until recently there were only wooden structures in Derby which made it unique, but still today you will see some of the small miners cottages in the main street. One interesting fact I was told several years ago… the entrance to the mine tunnel is home to a very rare spider. I’m not going over the river to find out!
The Trail of the Tin Dragon
You will also find the Derby School House Museum operated by the local history group. Here you will find artefacts from the mining era, a Chinese heritage section, a model school room, as well as World War One and Two photographs and other material, to ensure the town’s heritage is conserved. The museum is manned by friendly volunteers who are ever-so-keen to answer your questions.
Bang in the middle of Derby is a more modern building: the Tin Centre, housing a spectacular multi-media presentation. You’ll experience the power and fury of water in this epic story, including the tragic flooding of the Brisies Mine in 1929. Don’t miss the bronze sculpture at the entry to commemorate the loss of life in this tragedy.