Clara and Alf Briant: a family portrait

This portrait is a beautifully preserved piece of Briant/Holt/Robinson family history. Being able to return these treasures the best part of this family history journey.

 November 2015 revealed this early portrait on Flinders whilst sorting through the Stephens and Briant’s letters and photos.

Uncle Alf, Auntie Clara, Una and Alfie 001.jpg

Uncle Alf, Auntie Clara, Una and Alfie: on the back of this photo.

Lunar Eclipse 1923

Fingers crossed that tonight’s sky stays clear, so we can see the spectacular Lunar Eclipse on tonight’s full moon.

The East Coast of Flinders around March/April a magic spot to watch the full moon as it rises across the water – on the beach, Babel in the foreground having a BBQ, fishing with family and friends. The silver light as it comes across the water resembles a bright pathway. It’s easy to see why our old families so loved their home.

Great Uncle Henry Briant’s Diary of 1923: reveals on the 26 August 1923 he saw a Lunar Eclipse – a partial eclipse.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 7.53.50 PM


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.

Fred Collis and Harry Briant – Friends?

Fred Collis


Early last year when I copied Fred’s diaries in the Hobart History Room I knew the document would be fascinating and bound to tell more about our Collis Robinson family history. Imagine my surprise when I noticed several references to the Bryant’s (Samphire Briant’s).

Late last year when looking through the Briant/Stephens family private letters I stumbled upon a letter written by Fred to Harry passing on his condolences after the death of Harry’s beloved Adeline. IMG_0013This was a letter written not to an acquaintance but a close friend – this started me thinking how was this so. When I found the letter I cranked up the laptop, opened the Diaries, read Fred’s entry on 8/11/1925. What became clear was a functional variance with his daily diary notations compared to this personal letter.  On the day he wrote the letter, 8/11/1925 Fred was home alone…… the rest of the family were at Church and possibly had the quiet time to sit in the day light and write to Harry. His Nephew Bert was staying with them and more than likely conveyed the Briant family situation which was not exactly straight forward. I concluded his diary entries were possibly written at night, under a candle or lamp explaining the often difficult to read handwriting. Fred entries as comments makes interpreting  sometimes tricky. One example – It was a hot day  Had a good shower, thinking he had a shower……impressive for 1905, reading again a few days later….. realised he meant it rained!! Silly me!

The question: how did they become such good friends, so back to earlier days on CBI………..Fred arrived on CBI as a 13-year-old around 1873, over the next few years grows into adulthood within the CBI community, explaining how he became the social butterfly of Sawyer’s Bay. Many references to this one or that one called in and stayed, often overnight……..starts to make sense.

Canon Brownrigg also mentioned Fred Collis,

‘Wednesday morning opened to us the  desired prospect of a run down the Sound. The wind was westerly and light, and at about 10 a.m. we got under way for Little Badger Corner. Previously,  however to starting, I visited the public school, and was satisfied with the  result. The attendance also during the past year showed a decided improvement. Not with standing the advantages of improvement and tide, our passage through the Sound was not so satisfactory as it might have been, but this was owing to detention  upon a sand-bank over which the depth of water was less than we had expected. We arrived, however just before ‘dark, and in the evening I had family prayer in the cottage occupied by Mr J. Robinson. 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 dagged 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

Enter: The Briant lads to the straits – again able to work out from a letter IMG_0090to Harry from his older brother that Harry and his younger brothers Alf and George entered the Straits scene mid to late 1880’s: here was the connection, Fred born 1959 and Harry born 1865 –  these handsome young Briant (Harry, George and Alfred) and Collis (Alfred and Henry) men of similar ages, education and values, destined to become lifetime friends.

Harry leased Prime Seal, a stones throw from Sawyer’s Bay – well sort of, I wonder if Harry and Fred caught up when Harry was out on Prime – bet they did, wish there were more diaries.

In December 1934 this friendship cemented  forever when Harry’s daughter Maud married Fred’s Nephew Horace – what a great ending to a long friendship………… they were family!!

After finding the pictures of Fred and his father Henry and hearing Dad telling his recollection of stories handed down from Horace about ‘Uncle Fred’ I could see a family resemblance. Have a look at these three pictures (how cool doing this) of Horace between his Uncle Fred and Grandfather Henry – Dad interested when I noted Horace was more like the Collis side of the family – something he hadn’t considered. Horace was also a ‘mover and shaker’ as reported in the Island News 50th anniversary edition,  a great story-teller (like Dad and Tim) and like his Uncle Fred married later in life.Henry Collisjack-and-flora-collisFred Collis

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.

Bishop Montgomery June 1894 – Visit to the Furneaux Group.

Extracts from Bishop Montgomery – who also visited in 1893. On this 6 day visit (1894) Bishop Montgomery stayed with Dad’s maternal and paternal, grandparents and two sets of great grandparents that is  – Harry and Adeline (1&5), James and Emily (3&5), Henry and Hannah Collis  including the ‘Willetts’ Ed and Maria (1&3),(2), also his Great Uncle William and his wife (James brother)and Ellen (4) on Cape Barren.

‘Extracts’ from – CHURCH NEWS for the Diocese of Tasmania August 1894


1) ‘It was announced to the expectant public that the daughter of the school-house was to be married at 9.30 to Mr. Henry Briant, owner of the “Furneaux” cutter, and now a would be farmer on Flinders. It was also announced (with a fatal coincidence) that the bride and bridegroom were to set sail for their new home directly after the ceremony. It is needless to say that the church was crowded to witness the first marriage in the Church of Epiphany and to see the Bible given away which had been promised on the occasion’

The couple were made man and wife amid the solemn silence of the devout congregation. But once they were outside the church the scene became exciting. From the church door I beheld white clouds discharge themselves upon the devoted pair, and learnt it was rice.’

‘In about half-an-hour the bridegroom went to his ship to get under weigh. He soon returned, and his looks told us something was wrong. If the truth must be told, a band of youths was absent from the church, a band who had vowed that the happy pair should not depart until they had joined in an evening dance at the township. The cutter had lost her jib and staysail. The bridegrooms other boat had no rudder, and no peak halyards nor could searching discover them anywhere. Even if they had found the missing articles, I am told that it had been determined to drag the ship back to her anchorage, and good sailors were there by the dozen to make escape impossible. The two who were most concerned took the whole thing thoroughly well, and were greeted with a cheer when they confessed themselves beaten. The dance was held, and at 1030p.m., under a brilliant moon, the newly –married pair sailed away to Badger Corner.’

2) ‘Mr. Collis’ hospitable house was reached by 5p.m. another service of baptism followed, two children being brought forward.  Then, after a merry meal, we started for a moonlight walk to the old settlement of the aborigines, where Mr. Willett now resides. Family prayers were conducted in due time, and once more enlivened with the merry stories of our old schoolmaster friend we returned to his house, and I obtained a real bed to sleep in, a luxury we do not expect often in the Straits.’

3) ‘We had to fly before the wind to Badger Corner through the long channel south of the Flinders Peaks. Oilskins were now in requisition, and ere we reached our anchorage we were becalmed. The darkness was settling down upon us as we landed at Mr. James Holt’s, but I thought it best to push on at once to Mr. Stephens’ new farm, some two miles back in the bush. Through open flats and fantastic grass trees we splashed our way until the aspect of the country changed, and trees of good growth were reached. Here, near the confluence of two creeks, is Una Vale, the property of Mr. Stephens. Nor do I think I have ever heard of a more wonderful record of energy than that which was unfolded to me by Mr. Holt of the way in which, during a few week’s holiday, Mr. Stephens put up a four roomed house two miles from the sea, all the material being carried up, or wheeled up in a barrow, along a rough bush track. Even the iron for the roof was carried up on the heads of the girls of the family.’

4) ‘I have not yet alluded to the fishing company which came from Melbourne to Flinders with a steamer to take their fish to market. Its fate was not fortunate. The fish were plentiful enough, but the venture failed; and though I saw the spot where they camped the region is given up once more to the wallaby: it is to many miles from Badger Corner, but in the channel between the two great islands. One night at the township Mr. W. Holt threw his net a couple of times into the boat harbor, and we watched with interest the landing of between 30 and 40 dozen garfish-a feast of course for the whole community. And now that the works are done, there came over me the usual feeling of anxiety. When could I hope to get away?’

5) ‘At length we bethought ourselves of the bridegroom at his farm far away, and of his large cutter. Perhaps he would take us back to the mainland. So we departed once more for Badger Corner. That night Mr. James Holt fed us wallaby and gave us the best accommodation he possessed. I slept that night on six chairs, and slumber was sweet. The next day we tried our utmost to reach the school-house. The bridegroom left his bride and sailed the “Furneaux” to the best of his ability, and Charles Stephens ably seconded him, but we took 19 hours getting over 15 miles of sea. Anchored that night, and waiting for the tide to turn, I saw a sight, which made us explode with laughter. It was about 3 a.m., and bitterly cold. We had laid down in our clothes, prepared to sail at the first opportunity, and when I put my head up on deck I beheld Mr. Briant cowering over a fire-pot, and looking the picture of misery. So miserable was his appearance that there was nothing left to do but to woken the echoes on the dim shores hard by with laughter as I pointed to the “happy bridegroom.” Nothing could really have been more brutal, since it was I who had torn him from his home. But at length our day came, and on Friday, June 29. After six days of waiting (I hope of patience too), the “Furneaux” started for Cape Portland. In 4 ½ hours we were in the boat harbor of the Cape, and in a short time we too (my boy and I) presented ourselves to Mrs. Bowne’s as occupants for a lodging.’