William Holt:1893


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Enlarge this photo to see William Holt and son looking into the camera. The earliest known photo of William to date.

Museum Victoria’s online catalogue of photographs was upgraded a few weeks ago and I realised on enlarging the above photo that William and young son Fred Holt were present in this group photo of the Victorian Naturalists taken at Trousers Point. The earlier online catalogue impossible to enlarge due to the distortion. What a family treasure for Williams descendants. I knew he’d be in 91772 again the old format hard to tell, the new format it’s clear William is at the bow of the boat and protecting her so close to the rocks. When I enlarged this one in the new format  91762 William would be the guy in dinghy heading back to the Syren, he wouldn’t want to be separated from the Syren in that particular neck of the woods, so to speak. These boats the most important objects our forbears would own!!! A life line to their communities and emergencies, and the generator of income. I wonder what they would make of our cars, planes, trains and boats, the modern waterproof fabrics and………. the computer!

The boy about 9 beside William likely to be Frederick Louis Holt/Robinson born 1883. The other lad appears slightly older and likely to be Master Gunderson as his attire consistent with a boy from the city. Item 91725 ‘off Green Island’ beside the closest man (bowler hat) a younger person can be seen. H.J. Gunderson (consul to Norway and Sweden) and Master Gunderson were named in the expedition.

 William Junior 15, Jessie 14 and Phillip 12, Harold John 11 months and how I conclude the lad is Fred, having similar features to the older Fred seen on Ancestry.

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There are only three references to a young son and ‘only mate’ the first on arriving to Trousers Point November 16th.

The second was the day they left for Babel where they called in on a family if not Big River then possibly the smaller Reddins Creek. The last reference to young son was leaving Trousers Point heading for Cape Barren on November 24th.

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William is very well dressed as is his son, who as ‘only mate’ is out with his father, were they visiting Dave Maynard and family for a specific reason. Did William deviate from his original plan what ever they were? to make a quid in those days. What would his wife Ellen make of him not coming home, she wouldn’t know he was heading Babel, did William request the family they visited on transit to call on Ellen while he was doing the Babel job. No phones or laptops in those days……everything worked out in due course as it did or didn’t happen. A wife and mother in those days and circumstances would farewell a husband and pray for a safe return. A young son learnt his boating skill from a very early age…….

What I really like in the photo is William’s cap (and fob chain) a well-worn cap assisting to identify William. (William’s elder brother James always wore a bowler hat)

The Syren whilst it doesn’t look overly large used to cart hundreds of barrels of salted mutton to Launceston.  (Holt’s fishmongers shop expanded to birds way back in the 1860’s) William regularly sailing with elder brother James and younger brother John. They would have carted thousands across their lifetimes in boats of a similar size.

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The following are extracts from The Victorian Naturalist volume X.

The journal has additional information as a point of interest to the published articles

15th November

“On getting back to camp we found Mr. Gunderson with a friend, had come round from Pat’s River” The Victorian Naturalist Vol X

16th November

“Mr. Ashworth departed with our visitors for Pat’s River to try and arrange with a resident there about a boat, but found he was away, and would not be back until Sunday. Fortunately for us however, Mr. William Holt, of Cape Barren Island sailed round to us with the Syren, a fine double-ended cutter rigged boat of about 9 tons, and fitted with fore and aft cabins. We soon arranged with him to take us about to the different islands. We were fortunate in gaining Mr. Holt’s services, for we found him a most capable and obliging man, and we were indebted to him for much valuable assistance and information – for instance, that of the nidification of the Mutton Bird being of exceptional value, as his notes were based not only on what he had observed, but by dissection of the birds, male and female, at different periods.” The Victorian Naturalist Vol X

Coincidently, William his wife Ellen and their adult family would later own Trousers Point and were known as the Trousers Point Holts/Robinson’s.

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Jessie owned land at Trousers Point  and surname incorrectly spelt.

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This last article was penned by Ed Stephens, my GG Grandfather on his journey home to Samphire River via Badger Corner.

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Ed notes they spotted the Syren near the Heads, William must have well and truly beaten the Linda to Flinders.

Ed as always entertaining with his tales………

4 thoughts on “William Holt:1893

  1. wonderful research and wonderful reading. Well done. By way, if ‘Mousell’ was incorrect surname, what was correct one – Mansell?

  2. so Jessie Mansell must be daughter of Ellen Smith and William Holt. Ellen was daughter of John Smith and Plinperena, a tribal woman. As you say, that must be Will Holt in the picture with the naturalists. Jessie must have married old stiff leg Ted Mansell who died outside Whitemark in nasty circumstances in 1924.
    Your website and material is really pleasing and interesting to read. Good on you Deb.

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