For 100 years the Steppes Hall has been the place where people from the Lake country went for church or Sunday school, for schooling, for their weekend dances and other entertainment. Mike Vanderkelen wrote this article for Think Tasmania as an adjunct to a feature story about local identity Amy Pulford.

Steppes Hall - Homestead Tasmania

South of Steppes Hall: Homestead (photo by Carol Haberle)

Steppes Hall Centenary Celebration

by Mike Vanderkelen

“I’ve called (it) a ‘white man’s sacred site” said former Bothwell warden Ian Downie whose family had been graziers in the area for seven generations. As it was to shepherds, trappers and other Lake country people, Steppes Hall would have been a prominent landmark to Downie’s grandfather who took sheep from the lowlands to the Lake Augusta area for fifty years consecutively from 1880 to 1930.

Downie knew the Steppes Hall as the main gathering place for forty or fifty families who met there and made their own entertainment. The Monks were one of those families.

Irene Glover, seventh born daughter of Bob and Verley Monks and younger sister to Amy Pulford, has known the Steppes Hall for all her life.

Irene Glover: Spiritual Connection

Irene has that same spiritual connection with the high country as her late sister, meeting its challenges and enjoying its bounties.

“I love the lake country and the pioneer history to go with it. Every day is a challenge,” she says, still running a farm in this harsh environment.

Though she regrets the loss of the Crown grazing lands that were so much a part of their lives, Mrs Glover says the Steppes Hall remains a monument to the history of the Lake country and a real community hall.

As the organizer of the centenary celebrations she says “it has been the scene of all sorts of events for Lake Country people, including the mountain cattlemen. There have been weddings, horse races and even the gun club meets there,” she says.

Today Steppes Hall is managed by a small volunteer group, with plaques recognizing the work done by Lake country people in this isolated, treeless and sometimes harsh environment.

Dancing the Night Away: Steppes Hall

Interviewed some years ago, Amy Pulford described the dances at the Hall. “You’d go there at night-time, at dark, and you’d still be dancing next morning at daylight.”

Sister Irene has the same memories. “I can remember dancing all night and then going straight onto the road with sheep the next morning.”

The wooden hall would vibrate when everyone took to the dance floor if they weren’t warming themselves by the fire either outside the hall or at the one inside the long supper room.

Parents used to bring the young children to the dances and wrap them up in blankets and put them on the floor or leave them on the back seat of the car.

“And” said Amy, “we didn’t have the flash music they’ve got today. We used to have someone on the old squeezebox, as we called it, the old melodeon and they’d play all night. It was just unreal.”

After her death in 2008 Amy’s ashes were scattered near the Hall and a plaque was erected to her memory. Somehow, as a cool evening settles over the little Steppes Hall, it’s not hard to imagine her enjoying the music of country singer Frank Sargent in his 2005 tribute to her called, naturally, “The Lady of the Lakes”.

Since he was youngster Mike Vanderkelen has been a regular visitor to Tasmania. He is a marketing and communications consultant and former business journalist who consults to clients in the information technology sector. For more information please visit Infotech Marketing & Communications.

The Inland Fisheries Service also published this item about the Steppes Hall centenary celebrations on their website…

The Steppes Hall – a familiar stopoff on the way to the lakes for many anglers – celebrated its centenary on Saturday 12th November 2011.

As part of the celebrations, a new interpretative display was unveiled which incorporates the history of the Highlands including the integral part played by The Steppes. It provides an account of the interesting history, the characters and significant events of the past 100 years and more.

The Steppes is significant to anglers in that its early residents, the Wilsons, were involved in the original stocking of Great Lake with both brown and rainbow trout.

It is worth taking the time to stop and view the display next time you are heading to the lakes.

Steppes Hall - Homestead

Historic Steppes Homestead (photo by Carol Haberle)

Map: Steppes Hall, Tasmania…

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