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Life on the Bay

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Education around the bay

Peter Mulgrave, the newly appointed Superintendent of Schools, visited the farms on the northern end of Ralphs Bay in 1821. As he had done elsewhere, he promoted the benefits of education and collected data on potential students. He found young people requiring an education on seven of the ten farms along the northern edge of the bay; a total of seventeen potential students.

Though his records do not name the children directly, they can mostly be identified by the details given about their age, gender, and above all, their parent or protector.


Some of these young people were locally born and raised in their birth family. The older ones had relocated with their families from Norfolk Island thirteen years earlier.  Two children are thought to have accompanied their mother, Elizabeth Meredith, when she was transported from Britain the previous year.  There were two girls in out-of-home care. Catherine Kelly was living with her foster father, William Harris, and the other girl living further around the bay is thought to be Eleanor Gregory.  Her father was later the clerk at Macquarie Harbour, a place apparently not suitable for children.  John Gibson was named as the parent/protector of “a coloured girl by a native woman”.  She may have been John Gibson’s daughter.  Alternatively, she could have been an orphan.

At the time of Peter Mulgrave’s visit, ten of these young people could read and one could spell. Only the two Stanfield children were attending school.  


Peter Mulgrave optimistically told the Lieutenant Governor that his “information has uniformly been received with unequivocal expressions of gratitude, and assurance has been given that their Children should avail themselves of the promised advantages”. He estimated that thirty-five children from Clarence Plains would attend school in 1822, fifteen of them from around Ralphs Bay. Though school attendance did improve in the following years, it probably didn’t reach the projected figure of thirty-five until John McArdell took over as the school master in the 1830s.

Sources: Tasmanian Archives: CSO 1-124-5809, pp 160-161. HRA Series 3 vol 4, pp 39-40, 92. Land Tasmania: Will of William Harris Book 2 no 105. Female convicts in VDL database project: Elizabeth Meredith.  Exiled! three times over! : profiles of Norfolk Islanders exiled in Van Diemen's Land, 1807-13 by Irene Schaffer and Thelma McKay. Tasmanian Archives: Birth death & marriage records. NSW State Archives [4/1913.4A], pp 44-5. 

Links to more information on other websites

The bloody and sometimes sad history of Ralphs Bay

Each cutout figure on the map represents a young person on Peter Mulgrave’s list and is placed on or near the property associated with their parent/protector. The latter appears to have been the person giving the information, but not necessarily the parent. Thomas Stanfield seems to have given details about the children of his brother, Daniel Stanfield, and Richard Westlake apparently referred to his brothers or even included himself in the numbers he gave. Also, it has been assumed that George Smith and his family were living on the property that George would later formally buy from his father-in-law, James Morrisby.

The boundary lines on the map are based on Land Tasmania: theLIST map & Tasmanian Archives: AF396-1-207. 

Image credits: State Library NSW: Detail from f.132 Rokeby Clarence Plains dated 25 April 1874, Volume 2 Sketches of Tasmania 1846-1903 by H. Grant Lloyd. Tasmanian Archives: NS2267-1-1640.


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