Maritime misadventures in the Straits.

pictorial of several well-known and dramatic wrecks in the Furneaux Group

17 March 1877 City of Foo Choo. Sailing from Newcastle and Sydney heading to Calcutta via Bass Strait when she ran aground on the East Coast of Flinders. All on board survived.

10 March 1912 The Fursund was fifty-nine days out from Buenos Aires when driven by a gale through the famous Pot Boil onto Vansittart Shoals. All that remains is a rusty skeleton of her former self.

8 August 1912 The G W Wolfe bound from Buenos Aires in ballast for Newcastle and wrecked on Prime Seal Island. The article states wrecked on Hummock Island which is Prime Seal. October 10 Insert 2




The 1920’s The  M.V. Linda struck a rock of Little Dog Island, which is just across from Big Dog Island……. where she was built by Henry Taylor 1887.

1 June 1930  The Joseph Sims. On her way from Melbourne to St.Helens when she grounded on the rocky islets south of Prime Seal Island. She was salvaged by the Holloway’s.

13 December 1938 The E.H. Purdon  beached at Sellers Point across from Babel Island.

Finding the Wolfe in the Weekly Courier was an eye opener I had no idea she was so big and the article describes the noise during the crash.

In the 1970’s our family went across to Prime Seal to look at what was left of the Wolfe, pre the RAAF coming in to airlift the remains of the anchor. Finding the article about how it all transpired and the seeing the size of the ship, I have decided the Wolfe was probably more spectacular than the Farsund.

1912: The world had the Titanic in April and Flinders………… the Farsund and Wolfe, also the opening of the Interstate Hotel.

One thing for sure is the Robinson/Holt and Briant ancestors would have visited the sites of the wrecks (apart from the Foo Choo – although the Holt lads were in the Straits so maybe) along with the rest of the lads from Cape Barren and Flinders. A shipwreck in the early days would have been big news and a crowd drawer as seen in the photo of the Wolfe. 

Maritime Museum of Tasmania


Samphire River

The Samphire River is a beautiful tidal river. The bridge connecting the Coast Road to Badger Corner has recently been rebuilt and this is the second time I can recall. cropped-img_5548.jpg

The bridge was a big part of our childhood. So many hours fishing over the rails. Kids, fishing lines, push bikes and pets always a familiar sight on the bridge in the 70’s. I look forward to seeing the new model on my next trip home.

Once upon a time under the bridge lived an old Troll!! Many years ago the Robinson grandkids heard his calling ‘trip trap trip trap’ who goes there?? as we crossed the bridge on our way home from one of our evening walks…………….my sister and I caught only but a glimpse as we whisked our frightened children to the safety of the farm. From what we could see the Troll was not so old, about 6 foot 3, fair complexion with noticeable signs of early greying!!!! A small reminisce for Megs, Bec, Jack, Hayley and Marto for being the best kids (cousins) in the world  ♥ and putting up with your wicked Uncle!

Below are extracts about the first bridge across the Samphire – way back in the old days.IMG_5607

The Road Trust was the early name for the council. Jimmy Holt was one of the original members along with Fred Collis. William Holt elected in 1905. The following recently in the Island News.

The Examiner 14/10/1904 Tenders are to be called by the road trust for the bridge over Samphire River, in the south of the island. This is a long-felt want, and the trust are to be congratulated on taking the job on hand in a vigorous manner.

The Examiner 30/6/1905 A meeting of the road trust was held at the residence of the chairman (Mr. J. L. Vireaux) on Monday, the 5th inst. There were five members present, when the plans supplied by the Public Works Department for the proposed bridge over the Samphire River were submitted, and on the motion of Mr. G. Messner, it was decided to call fresh tenders for same, as those settlers who tendered on the old specifications declined to allow their tenders to be held against the new ones offered. The secretary was instructed to obtain permission for the board to reassess the properties on the island, as much dissatisfaction is expressed on all sides at the present assessments. It was also agreed that the board meet for the future until further notice at the Whitemark store every first Wednesday of the month.

The Examiner 11/10/1905 The ordinary meeting of the road trust was held at Whitemark yesterday, with six members present. A contract was let to Messrs. Dean and Briant to construct a bridge over the Samphire River, for the sum of £47 15s. Mr. W. Holt was instructed to get a culvert built over a dangerous part of the track between Whitemark and Trousers Point. A letter from L. Vireaux, re a culvert, was referred to the chairman and secretary to arrange. The secretary received instructions to write to the Minister of Lands re the proposed new road, or rather the re-opening of the old road which had been closed, to the Whitemark jetty, and to state that the trust were prepared to find £1 for £1, as suggested by him, towards the probable cost of same. Correspondence was read and dealt with from the Deputy Commissioner of Taxes, and the local authority of the Ringarooma district anent the proposal to form the Straits Islands into a separate assessment district. After some discussion this business was left in the hands of the deputy chairman, Mr. G. Messner, to communicate with Messrs. V. Huitfeldt, W. H. Ferguson, T. W. Barrett, and E. Stephens, J.s.P., with a view to obtain their co-operation and get the properties valued. Mr. G. Messner was elected deputy-chairman in the place of Mr. J. L. Vireaux, sen., who obtains temporary leave of absence. The treasurer presented his statement, which was found satisfactory, it being decided to wait until another meeting before taking the necessary steps towards recovering out-standing rates.

The Examiner 1/12/1905 Pleasing intelligence is to hand re the bridge over Samphire River. The contractors (Messrs. Dean and Briant) are progressing favorably with the work, and are making a good job.

The Examiner 30/1/1906 The contractors for the Samphire River bridge, which is just completed (Messrs. Dean and Briant) are to be commended for the workmanlike manner in which the structure has been erected. It is to be hoped that the settlers living near will have better luck than those near the Pat’s River bridge, and not have it burned down, as was the latter one. The means for the erection of these useful and most necessary improvements are evidently as scarce in the Government coffers as on Flinders Island.

I know my Grandfather Barry Briant built the first bridge and Dean I think was George, they lived on either side of the river.

The probable author for all the news on Southern Flinders sounds like Ed Stephens who in a earlier life had been a journalist.

John Holt

a4e1c6eb-3dd0-46ce-913b-a24b78bb2e45 I have tried to work the particular Lodge and  specifically more about the Lodge uniform, also his age to get an idea of the year.

Interested to find out more of origin of this photo found in the Emita Museum family history.

Mary Dwyer or Elizabeth (Meg) married John Holt and then Thomas Prest/Youl

The attire is Masonic as per information from a first cousin and Lodge member.

John Holt Junior was a member of the Heart of Oak Lodge an entirely different Friendly Society.

The only available history of Druids and Friendly Society’s in Tasmania link

Masonic Lodge of Tasmania link with photo of attire in 1940

History of the UK DRUIDS 

This link references the beginning of a Lady’s Lodge called ‘Lady Oak Leaves

Museum Victoria



Examiner article 2005 



Masonsic Hobart 1902

Monds Golden Wedding at the Launceston Masonic centre 1902

Advertisement poster ball Sept 1901 Boags Beer Ball




Little Dog – Family History



Little Dog Island – a stones throw from Big Badger Corner. (open the link and the bay across the water west of Little Dog is Big Badger Corner)

Little Dog is a small island of around 206 acres and has been part of the Robinson/Holt family from the mid 1860’s until around 10 years ago. Great Dog Island is to the East and known as Big Dog. The two islands together are usually called ‘The Dogs’. For instance, Dad will still say he heard the boat (Trading) come in through ‘The Dogs’ during the night.

I have researched and found more early history on John Holt – makes sense about the attraction to Bass Strait.

John Holt’s death certificate states age as 52 when he died in 1878. DOB 1826 if certificate is correct. No documentation of arrival to Tasmania. There are several Mr Holt’s on the arrival indexes to Tasmania.

5 January 1857 there is a John Holt on the whaling Barque ‘Runnymede’ employed as a seaman. John Holt’s signature for payment food and wages. REF: MB2/33/1/355 reel, Z267.

5 May 1860 (second column half way down) advertisement of a stray pigs found in the backyard of John Holt, Canning St Launceston. The last 24 hours TROVE has given up these next five articles.

1 April 1865 (end of last column) John Holt Fish Monger and perhaps the earliest clue about the attraction to Bass Strait. In addition: Jimmy Holt used to tell his sons, as a lad  he had driven the stage-coach on the way to Hobart. In 1856 Jimmy would have been about 13 and probably did have a crack at driving at some point, or maybe he just sat beside the driver. Stage-coaches the mode of transport in those days.……..Jimmy started his boating career aged 14, the time lines work.

6 February 1867  John Holt returning from Bass Strait on 4 February aboard the Mountaineer.

20 May 1868 (top of second column) John Holt issues a warning to would be trespassers on Little Dog Island.

17 June 1872 Lease of Little Dog Island 200 acres (exclusive of 39 acres purchased by Mr J Holt).

17 December 1875 John Holt owner of 121 acres on Little Dog.

These articles set the scene for the Robinson/Holt history in Bass Strait.
We have  a lot of oral history handed down through Jimmy’s children about Great Grandfather Jimmy and his brothers Billy  and Johnny.

Most of the Robinson/Holt history is about Jimmy and Billy – not so much about Johnny. One explanation for this is that Johnny resided in Launceston and only lived on Little Dog during the birding season. The birding seasons a time when the three families came together to work, and hard work it was, everything   carted on and off the island – including wood. Wood was vital for the commercial aspect of running the three sheds and homes.The social aspect important for the brothers, their wives and of course the 30 + children and the thread to the cousins close friendships. Bishop Montgomery notes in 1891 (two years before Grandfather was born) about the three families on page 6.

The map below gives an idea of the division of land on the island in the early days. Jimmy, Billy and Johnny Holt reefs (named by the locals) worked out when you look map. One of the earlier maps I had Billy’s reef on the lower east when it should have been higher and in line with his land.IMG_0033

The three families continued this tradition and I am unsure when it all started to change, we know from the article below they were still operating commercially in 1913. Alf Holt in 1909 had the misfortune as Master of the Dawn and this involved his four sisters.

Johnny Holt died in 1915, James in 1926 and Billy in 1929.

1913 this link tells us about the Flu epidemic that claimed the life of Billy’s son Albert James Holt. Albert’s grave is next to his first cousin at Badger Corner. James article tells us the three families were all still birding in 1913 as he refers to his brothers and in the first article it seems perhaps a slight mix up, where in fact it should have said the young man died at his fathers camp William not James, then again he may have been in James camp if being nursed by Emily.IMG_5424

After James death the family had to sort out a complication with his Will.


George Robinson (Jimmy’s grandson) bought Johnny’s rookery . Tom Diprose (Jimmy’s son-in-law) bought Billy’s rookery.

When Dad was a child (the 40’s) the families still moved to the island to live and work during the birding seasons……….He has plenty of stories about this, especially how noisy the birds and penguins were at night  and again at dawn, not the ideal sleeping conditions! My siblings and I arrived in the 60’s and this annual migration had ceased instead we would do day visits in the Seaplane (boat). I remember the house and birding sheds where my Great Grandparents and grandparents lived and worked. I was still young when Little Dog was set alight and the buildings destroyed, sad losing these connection with our old family history. I remember the fire and looking across to Little Dog, a bright orange glow.

On Johnny’s block there is still a chimney. On Billy’s block there is a holiday home.


This picture taken on an overnight visit to the Island. I was so not disappointed, watching the birds landing with a thud in the rookery then wandering off squawking to find their respective burrows all very noisy and a magnificent display  of nature. The early morning racket on  scrambling to the rocks to fly off. Its one thing to hear the stories, its something you  need to experience to comprehend what it must have been like for our forbears………

The commercial story ended a long time ago and my parents owned Jimmy’s block until about 10 years ago.

In 1882 Canon Brownrigg gives a very accurate description as follows (I don’t think he was all that taken with birding)

‘The next day, leaving the Franklin at Badger Corner, I took a passage over to Big Dog Island in the Rosebud, as the navigation among the numerous sandbanks was well known to Edward Smith and Fred Collis, who offered me the passage in that boat. After visiting Mr Taylor at Big Dog we proceeded to Little Dog Island as Smith and Collis wanted to procure a few mutton birds for home use. Though there was no resident on the island I landed and accompanied Smith and Collis to their “birding.” The rookery the birds inhabit resembles rabbit warren. The soft ground is burrowed out in all directions among the tussocks of grass and the thin, covering over these holes often gives way-as it did frequently  in my own experience and lets one down knee deep. The mode of birding is very simple, but by no means free from danger, arising from snakes, which are occasionally found in the same hole with the bird. To procure the bird the arm is first bared, and then thrust in sometimes quite up to the armpit into the hole, and the bird is laid hold of. The young birds offer no resistance, but the old, bird does not hesitate to defend itself, and makes its presence felt by sharply driving its beak into the hand or arm of the capturer, and drawing blood. When dragged from its hole a jerk of the hand speedily kills the bird by breaking its neck. As the birds are collected they are fastened upon a pointed stick called a “spit”, which is pushed through their beaks and thirty birds makes a fair load to carry.Within a short time Collis and Smith had collected sixty, birds, and with the spoils returned to the boat, and sailed over to Badger Corner. At family prayer in the evening I baptised the infant child of Mr. W. Robinson making the ninth-time of administering that rite among the islands during this visit.’ 1882

In Uncle Fred’s 1905 diary wrote of his helping J Holt manage a fire in the New Year and taking some of the children with them – he went back during the birding season and spent a few day on Little Dog and I love how he writes…… Nephew Walter borrowed his boat to pop across to Little Green Island – this was the norm in those days, socializing between the islands – even the communications were amazing all by fires etc, no phones or mobiles in those days.

Settlement Point has a little rookery where visitors to Flinders can go along and watch the birds returning to their burrows a natural spectacle. For the best part of the year the rookeries lay dormant awaiting the noisy return of the residents – the remarkable Short Tail Shearwater.

The Furneaux Museumvisitors can experience a replica of a working mutton bird shed.




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