Old Island songs

Last year I had Uncle Walters old tapes digitised to CD’s.  This has allowed the opportunity to listen and write the words to three of these really old songs, of course in the tradition of the locals, references several well know identities of times, long past. We think the recordings were made around the 1950’s.

*The first song is

Hooray my boys my sails are set in my Adeline bound for town

we just passed Possum Boat Harbour and we’ll soon be into town

I owe old Tom Langley a thousand pounds

and I wished I owed him more

the day that Billy Riddle pasted the notes up on the door

It hard to part with Polly my love and fills my heart with woe

to leave Possum Boat Harbour

where the dear little cabbages grow.

*The second song

In nineteen hundred and five me boys we down to the mark

we went to Jerry Dunams to buy a bottle of spark

we bought 2 bottles and took 3 more and sardines by the score

and now they say they are for sale at Harold Walkers store

Now Hogan Isles tired of single life

is going across to Kangaroo to get himself a wife

he’s going to ask big Ellen and if she says no

he doesn’t give a bugger, cause on the Spree he’ll go

Now old Billy the Whaler had a house and 6 fowls

he had a dog names Shepherd and around the house he prowls

He had a little garden, grown taters by the ton, and as far as growing onions – are second best to none.

*the last song titled ….’Born on Old Cape Barren.’

I was born on old Cape Barren ……….in them blue hills over there

I was just a little baby when my dear old Mamma died

Its been years now since we parted and the times drawing nearer

I will meet my dear old Mamma……. in them blue hills over there

It’s been years since we parted and the times drawing nearer

I will meet my dear old Mamma……. in them blue hills over there

So I was born on Old Cape Barren……… in them blue hills over there

just remember what I told you about them blue hills over there.

Robinson or Holt

Another piece of verbal history – Jimmy Holt told his sons, when he was a lad he had experienced driving the stage-coach on a Launceston/Hobart leg, amazing. He had a very rough early life, spent a lot of time on the waterfront, where he learnt to fight (bare knuckles in those days, another story for later) his father (Samuel) was not a good person. His step father John Holt was the best thing that ever happened and as far as he was concerned was his father – hence the dilemma of the Robinson/Holt story. Emily  may have been (school teacher’s daughter) the force to keep ‘Robinson’ as seen on all official documents apart from his Masters ticket where he used Holt, (pre Emily, I suspect) even though they were informally known as Holt’s. The clue supporting the theory…… When Edie died, Emily received from the Royal Derwent Hospital a form called ‘particulars required for Registration of a Death’, information directly from Emily as follows, ‘Name and Surname (in full)  Edith Elizabeth Robinson (known as Holt)‘. ‘Born Cape Barren Island’. As I was reading the form in the history room, I noticed Emily wrote on the back of the form – reiterating……. ‘please note the deceased correct name is Robinson (not Holt)’. Mind you the hospital ignored Emily’s comments, as Edith Holt is the name on the council cemetery records.

It’s interesting to see William used Robinson and Holt or Robinson/Holt equally and then at some point Holt became official. John was that bit younger when his mother married John Holt, and used it officially from what I can see on all records. Dad tells another story about the day Jimmy Holt’s children officially decided to use Robinson………..  Horace and another brother had been in the Lady Barron store talking to the owner Billy Conder (as they often did), and they got talking about the name situation that they were known as Holt’s locally and Robinson officially. Apparently Billy Conder said among other things ‘if you were born a Robinson……. then you’re a Robinson‘  it seemed a unanimous vote by all the siblings to start using Robinson locally after this particular conversation with Billy Conder. Thank goodness it all got sorted then! The locals had great difficulty getting their heads around the new concept, and quickly adopted the saying when they saw Tuck out with his wife – here comes Tuck Holt and Mrs Robinson. You can still rely on the same Island humour these days!!

The wash up of the Robinson/Holt conundrum – John Holt’s family have always been Holt’s, James family the Robinson (Holt’s) and Williams family Holt (Robinson’s) …….go figure!!

Now back to Billy Conder –  his most famous saying was; ‘it’s on the boat’ this he used when anyone wanted to buy a product he didn’t or never had. Dad recalls his father and uncles from both sides of his family often using in jest! I imagine by all the locals as well. IMG_6031

James Robinson

James Robinson or Jimmy Holt, either/or……..the same person, our Grandfather and Great Grandfather! He is well-known by the two names and I often use both. Dad only ever uses Jimmy Holt as this is the history handed down to him by his father Horace also known as Horace Holt for a fair period of his life. We only ever heard stories about Jimmy Holt and his mother was always Meg Youl. A decision to photo copy James Masters Mariners Ticket – along with a few other documents as Christmas gifts last year, evolved into our family research and hasn’t stopped since!!

The tricky subject of James birthdate –  what’s written on his Masters ticket and Masters application doesn’t fit  with the 1858 birth certificate. IMG_5247 IMG_5248 Naturally I thought this was Jimmy’s original ticket – all became clear in the Hobart History Room, finding it was a duplicate and reissued in 1891 and has fold marks, probably kept in his wallet. (The original (and duplicate) application and examination was signed by James Riddle, great-uncle of Bill Riddle Senior who bought the Robinson home at Badger Corner in 1930’s.) IMG_0063 References for these documents – certificate No 52.

This information is direct from Jimmy Holt himself……… birth date, place and address…… Little Dog Island in Badger Strait. (Interesting…… Badger Strait) The specifications of the Elizabeth (built by William Brown, Cape Barren Island) the other boats he had been employed on.

Thank you Jimmy for this information. When I first read like others before me, a son had been born in Georgetown  24/9/1858 to Samuel Robinson and Mary Devine, thought it possible the registrar (registered 6/10/1858) may have mis heard Dwyer and why we see Devine.

The baptism certificate for this same child on November 3rd 1858 states the child’s name was ‘David’ parents named as Samuel and Mary Robinson, no reference to maiden name. As the dates fitted this would suggest the child was James Robinson.

However when I was examining his Home Trade Ticket, the glaring inconsistency was DOB, 1851, the dates didn’t fit with his parents history. Was James was the eldest of the brothers not the youngest. Did Samuel Robinson have another son in Georgetown with another woman called Mary and possibly the crux of his sudden departure in January 1859.

A trip to Carr Villa to photograph the headstone.

James died in February he hadn’t turned 75, taking this into account he was born in 1851. IMG_5222

Elizabeth Prest’s Will names James first, although William and John are around the wrong way. Again James marriage certificate – states in 1881 he was 29 years of age, again 1851. There is a variable of 7 years working on 1851 and 1858. James applied for his Home Trade Ticket in January 1875 –  James Holt states he started working on the ‘Blackbird’ in 1866, making him 15 or 16 as a boy and worked for 8 years in the trade, bringing his age to 23. James and his mother Elizabeth Holt owned the ‘Elizabeth’. If he had been born in 1858 – he would have started working at 8 and applied for his masters ticket at the age of 16. In this case he would have become the Master of the ‘Blackbird’ when he was 10. My youngest nephew has just turned 10…… ludicrous to consider he could be employed as a Master or even as a boy at this age, (no offence, Will, I think your parents would agree). The book Mission to the Islands published by Stephen Murray Smith also supports the 1852 theory – Smith researched and presents information about the local identities from Cannon Brownrigg’s work.

The answer I suspect is with Meg his mother who arrived in the Colony in 1853. I wonder if James chose his brothers, did Meg leave 2 boys at the orphanage and 12 months later leave with 3 boys. Would love to hear other ideas about this……..

Meg Youl – a collector of names! (1)

Meg – a colourful character!!

Firstly…….Samuel Robinson – the oral history we have handed down is fairly grim. James was up front with his sons and used to say he was ‘no good’ and this was always strongly emphasised, still evident when Dad talks about Samuel. When the boys where very young they had a really rough life, really rough, and this can be seen by the time spent in the Orphanage. Between the three boys they had 37 children, Samuel was not a name afforded to any of their sons, whereas Elizabeth was used by the three sons for their daughters, clearly a statement!!

Secondly – How does James fit into the scheme if he was born in Hobart 1951 – an element of intrigue of our history!!

Thirdly – why did Mary Elizabeth Dwyer come to Launceston in the first place? What compelled this young woman of 23 to relocate the end of the earth in big old sailing ship as a free agent?? Did she follow a relative out here, maybe a convict parent or sibling, and is this where James fits in??

Imagine my surprise to see a picture of Meg in the William Robinson/Holt history folder at the Emita Museum when I visited two weeks ago.There is also a picture of John Holt her husband. I will revisit this when I go home in a few weeks………. rock on November.

Meg died in the house she rented from Catherine Prest at 37 York Street in Launceston – directly opposite my work place. 37 York St is now a private car park and I have for the past nine years walked past each day on my way to work. I often spare a thought for the times she must have also walked this same spot!