Jimmy was a well-known Mariner, Farmer and Councillor around the Straits. He was reliable and always up to helping anyone in need. There are stories in the family of Jimmy heading off in his boat to aid others, usually in terrible weather, those jobs others turned down.
Childhood: a hard life as a young child. His birth parents will likely remain a mystery. Did Elizabeth adopt him or was she his mother and she adopted his brothers. As far as Jimmy was ever concerned, he had 2 two brothers – William and John. They always looked out for each other. The best thing to ever happen was Elizabeth married John Holt and how the boys took on the name Holt.
Jimmy spent a lot of time as a kid on the waterfront. He learnt the skill of bare knuckle fighting. This skill would later make him a few quid. He could read and write and was a faithful member of the Church of England.
Stage Coach work experience: Jimmy told his sons that when he was around 12 or 13 he drove a stage-coach on part of the Launceston/Hobart leg. The stage-coach ‘work experience’ didn’t last long after coming across a gruesome and ghastly crime committed on an earlier traveller along the road by the bush rangers of the times….
The Blackbird: Jimmy went from the stage-coach to working on the Blackbird as a boy. He would find navigating the seas a better proposition than the interior of Tassie….. This coincides with John Holt’s involvement with Little Dog establishing for his family the long-term seasonal income that would stay in the family for well over a hundred years….. our very own unique market/maritime history.
The following stories come down the generations from his sons. They would have heard the stories from Uncles, Billy and Johnny, and other acquaintances of Jimmy.
The Den: Jimmy’s younger brother (unsure which one) was gambling in one of the well-known gambling/drinking dens of the day. Jimmy got word his brother was in a spot of bother. He went to help him out and found the place full of the roughest and toughest characters. Jimmy smashed the light with a chair when the opportunity was right – grabbed his brother and got the heck out of there……
Bare knuckle fighting: Jimmy in his younger day along with one of the Clark Island MacLaine’s would travel to Georges Bay with a plan to earn a few quid at the height of the mining boom. A time when plenty of money was around. When gambling, drinking and bare knuckle fighting competitions were the norm. Both men were familiar with St Georges as frequent traders to the area. Jimmy would compete as a bare knuckle fighter. The Maclaine lad would wage for Jimmy to win – and win he wold, he never lost a fight…….they did this several times over their younger years and earned a stash that would help set them up for life. Another time Jimmy entered a boat race at St Georges. He won the race. The second place getter was grumbling Jimmy had the better boat. Jimmy heard about the rumblings and offered to race again. This time he suggested they swap boats – Jimmy won the second race in a faster time than the first!!
The Julia. Jimmy was travelling back to Flinders aboard the Julia. Captain Holyman was the young Captain and it was his first trip to the Straits. During the crossing they were hit by a gale and Holyman became disoriented. He called for Jimmy and asked him for his assistance. Jimmy took command, taking the Julia through the notorious sounds. He anchored off Badger Corner. He said goodnight then disembarked and went home to bed. In the morning he sent young son John down to take the Julia through to Lady Barron. When John boarded the boat, Holyman sent him off again to fetch his father to come aboard and take then through. Dad knew this story was right because Nanna Willis often told Dad his grandfather Jimmy saved their lives. She was a small child on board that night.
The lunch box: Another time Jimmy was working out on the Sisters. Another boat came in to anchor. That boats Master told Jimmy his prized Coogee looked a bit ‘boxy’. Then that boat left. A message came through a short time later that a boat was weather bound and running low on food, maybe somewhere near Deal – Jimmy kindly offered to run out to deliver stores. Jimmy found the boat and delivered the stores, from then on when ever anyone would recall that story they would say the Coogee turned out to be the other boats ‘lunch box’…..all Holt/Robinson’s were known for having a great sense of humour.
Sisters contract: Jimmy apparently worked on the Sisters helping to improve the soil for cropping which may explain his letter registering Tuck and King’s birth from the Sisters. We think the three brothers Jimmy, Billy and Johnny all worked that contract.
The Elizabeth: cutter or ketch?? Jimmy’s application for his Masters ticket clearly states the Elizabeth was a cutter. Dad had only ever recalled stories of the Elizabeth by his father and uncles that she was a ketch. That mystery solved the other day when I read she went into dry dock in 1876 at Neil’s shipyard. The Elizabeth was lengthened by 12 ft another mast added to be relaunched as a ketch.
Alf Briant and the Elizabeth: Alf was aboard the Elizabeth when she came to grief of CBI. I thought Alf must have bought her from Jimmy. I recently found out she was still owned by Jimmy. Anyway the Elizabeth smashed to pieces on the rocks. Jimmy used to tell his sons that Alf should have scuttled her before she hit the rocks, that way they would have salvaged and restored her……