Ross Bridge Festival 2017Report on the event
The morning walk included four residents of Ross.
A shadow over the Ross Bridge Festival this year was the rejection of the Ross Bridge for National Heritage listing.
We were told by letter from the Heritage Branch in Canberra ~ “The Australian Heritage Council noted that while both Ross Bridge and the Old Military Burial Ground may be significant to the people in Ross and in the state, the nominations did not provide information to determine whether either may have National Heritage values, particularly in the case of the Ross Bridge compared to the current national listing of the Richmond Bridge. It is also noted there is no evidence of State or local government support.”
We believed that we had provided a strong body of evidence, along with letters of support from the Federal member for Lyons, the Mayor of the Northern Midlands Council, the head of the Heritage Highway, the Chairperson of the Tasmanian Wool Centre and the Chairperson of the Ross Local District Committee.
The Old Military Burial Ground, where Daniel Herbert’s memorial can be found, was added as an emergency level consideration, which is possible under the act, because of development proposed next to the site, which has now happened, but the submission was treated as a normal application.
We wondered if there is a hidden message in this for us, that any future National Heritage List application would need to include all the convict sites in Ross.
Looking toward a second application, we took the day to wonder what the best strategy would be.
Inspecting the Ross Bridge in the morning, we were able to consider how the area surrounding the bridge could be improved, to prepare the bridge like a bride for Canberra’s next inspection.
A large fallen tree could be seen, and with the regular flooding of the Macquarie River, it clearly presented a risk to the stonework of the Ross Bridge, which includes 186 sandstone carvings by the convict mason Daniel Herbert.
We wonder if those fallen trees and logs need to be removed, and some form of barrier set up to catch any logs or fallen trees that sail down the river to strike and hammer the bridge.
We could see where one large piece of sandstone had been dislodged from the bridge in the last flood.
Steve Robinson reported that divers had sited the missing block, but it was broken, so a replacement block would be made.
The Tasmanian Government has spent a huge amount of money on the restoration and maintenance of the Ross Bridge over decades, so we hope they will take that next step to prevent flood debris damage in the future.
We also inspected the Council owned land above the Macquarie River, where there is a view over the Ross Bridge and surrounding convict sites, and wondered why the Council has not developed a heritage parkland on this large area of land.
The Tasmanian Government also owns many hectares of reserve land around the convict sites, which could also be improved with care and walking trails along the river, which would be helpful with a National Heritage List application with all the convict sites in Ross.
We took particular interest in the Convict Garden, a 6 acre site where vegetables were once grown, now grazed by sheep.
We wonder if the next National Heritage list application needs to include the Convict Garden, which would need to be included on the Tasmanian Heritage Register first, as the site is not on any list yet.
The afternoon session in the Town Hall included six residents of Ross, was kicked off by Mr Kim Peart reading from a 1975 novel by Leslie Greener called Tea for a Stranger, an imagined exploration of the life of Daniel Herbert.
Leslie Greener was the co-author of the only book ever published on the Ross Bridge back in 1971.
We can but wonder when the next book on the Ross Bridge will be published, and a documentary made, which could be part of securing National Heritage listing of all the convict sites in Ross.
Dr Jennifer Bolton made a presentation on our last National Heritage List application, and offered suggestions toward the next bid.
A shorter presentation was made to the last meeting of the Northern Midlands Council, where Dr Bolton invited Councillors to the Ross Bridge Festival ~ see page 1304 of the Council minutes for October ~
Unfortunately, there were no Northern Midlands Council representatives at this year’s Ross Bridge Festival, so we are not aware of what the Council position will be.
We have written to the Tasmanian Government, calling for stronger support for the next National Heritage List application for convict sites in Ross.
We are waiting to hear if the Tasmanian government will rally to the national heritage needs of Ross.
Mr Kim Peart then spoke about the meaning of the art on the Ross Bridge, and how one image is believed to be a portrait of the Danish adventurer, Jorgen Jorgenson, who was sent to Ross in 1833 to investigate why the Ross Bridge was not being built.
The convict gang sent to do the work were distracted by the settlers of the district, seeking building materials.
Mr Peart described how Jorgenson’s investigations were stonewalled, with serious construction on the bridge being held up for another two years.
The Ross Bridge was eventually opened by Gov. Arthur on 21 October 1836, with a grand celebration, a giant bonfire, and the blowing up of the old bridge.
Those carvings on the bridge, however, remain a total mystery, as they were never part of the original design, never approved to be made, never commented on during construction, and no official record exists about them.
The Ross Bridge carvings may be the first public art made in Australia, though their nature may be more like convict graffiti in stone.
While claims have been made that the carvings are Celtic art, Mr Peart said he can find no evidence for this, and wonders if they are in the tradition of the art of the stonemason, which can be seen on churches and gravestones.
Noting how the convicts would have been very superstitious, Mr Peart wonders if the Celtic art story was a conspiracy between the new man in charge in Ross, Capt. Turner, and Daniel Herbert, to convince the convicts to ignore the settlers' requests for building materials, and focus on the completion of the bridge, now many years delayed.
If a military officer passing through Ross had seen what was going on with the unapproved carvings, he may have been quietly enraged.
When back in Hobart, if the officer could have raised the matter of all those bizarre convict carvings with the Governor, he may have placed his forefinger beside his nose and asked, “Is the bridge getting built?”
Historian Dr Ian Evans visited Tasmania’s Midlands earlier this year to investigate “magic marks” on stone and wood in Van Diemen’s Land ~
Mr Peart referred to the surprise discovery of an ornate Daniel Herbert carving, made before his Ross Bridge work, a sundial now found at Hobart’s Botanical Gardens ~
There may be more Daniel Herbert art out there, waiting to be found.
That art could be anywhere in the world now.
There are winged effigies on old gravestones in Ross, delicate line drawing in stone, and Mr Peart wonders if these may be the work of Daniel Herbert, as they are unique to Ross.
Mr Peart observed how the Ross Bridge has inspired artists, including June MacLucas, who spent 58 weeks in Ross in the 1980s to make full-size drawings of all the carvings on the Ross Bridge, a huge body of work that is now in the Burnie Regional Art Gallery.
A couple of the MacLucas Ross Bridge drawings can be seen in the Tasmanian Wool Centre in Ross.
Tasmanian artist Garry Nichols, now living in New York, makes art inspired by the images on the Ross Bridge ~
The question of a bronze statue of Daniel Herbert in Ross was raised. Where in Ross could this be located? Mr Peart suggested that the work include both Daniel and his wife Mary.
As the afternoon pressed on, matters turned to the launch of a landcare group in Ross, called ~ Heritage and Landcare in Ross ~ which will have an initial focus on public reserves around the Ross Bridge and the convict sites in Ross, to improve the presentation toward the next National Heritage List application.
In a town like Ross, where history meets Nature, there is a huge overlap between heritage and environment.
The heritage landcare group can also take an interest in the care of old graves in Ross, understanding the art on the stones, and collecting the stories often revealed on gravestones.
Susannah's Angel was given special treatment in Independent Australia ~
Mr Peart referred to his work in Rokeby, where he helped raise the funds and restore the memorial for Susannah Musk, as well as researching and writing the story called, Susannah’s Angel ~
Interest was raised in a walking trail that followed the Macquarie River, and then went around the outside road of Ross.
The idea of a museum of farm machinery was raised, which could be located on Crown Land in Ross, and be an excellent way to bring farmers in the district together to share the history of farming, and address landcare needs.
A Ross farm machinery museum could include steam engines.
With the bicentenary of the naming of Ross by Gov. Macquarie arriving on 2 June 2021, the idea of Ross participating in a progressive event was suggested.
On that tour of Van Diemen’s Land the Governor also named Perth, Campbell Town, Oatlands, Brighton and Sorell, and many landmarks.
There could be quite a carnival of bicentenaries in 2021, which could include an invitation for anyone interested to participate in a tour of the Macquarie named towns, 200 years on.
A copy of the centenary booklet for Ross was recently found in Launceston ~
Working toward a bicentenary tour of the towns, which could travel as Gov. Macquarie and his party travelled, may raise interest in a footpath that follows the old Midlands Highway, as closely as possible.
Ultimately this footpath could extend from the ferry in Devonport to Hobart, and even be part of a longer trail from Moreton Bay to Port Arthur ~
If this trail could be created by each Council and State government along the way, it would be one way to draw visitors to Ross.
It would also be a way to get a footpath from Ross to Campbell Town, and from Ross to Tunbridge, allowing people to walk, run, cycle, or drive a mobility scooter between the towns.
For many months the Midlands Highway south of Ross has been upgraded at great expense, but where is the footpath?
A convict trail down the east coast of Australia could become a form of pilgrimage for many, discovering the history and story at the heart of the nation.
Part of an Australian convict trail already exists, with the World Heritage listed convict built Great North Road, running for 43km north of Sydney toward Newcastle ~
In days gone by, walking was the way many people got around.
The Housewife Superstar, Marjorie Bligh, grew up in Ross where her father would walk to Campbell Town to play his accordion at dances, and then walk home again.
When Marjorie built her dream home in Campbell Town, called the music house because of the musical notes in the metal of the fence, she remembered her father, with an accordion shaped in metal in the front gate.
Discussion also fell upon the Ross Clinic, which the Council is seeking to lease out commercially.
Mr Peart’s representation called for the Ross Clinic to remain for public use, as a place to mobilise for community activities with art, heritage, landcare and the art of the Ross Bridge, where students could be shown the art and explore its meaning.
Mr Peart is still waiting for the Northern Midlands Council to enter into discussions about this.
Since the Council sold the old Ross School a couple of years ago, there is no other place in Ross for a community arts centre, or hands-on history activities, as with the art of the Ross Bridge.
NEXT YEAR’S ROSS BRIDGE FESTIVAL
Sunday 21 October 2018
Looking toward next year’s Ross Bridge Festival, a number of activities can be considered, including ~
A sandstone carving challenge on the old school oval.
An exhibition of art inspired by the art on the Ross Bridge.
A grave story challenge, along the lines of Susannah’s Angel, where entries could be drawn from anywhere around Tasmania where there is a good yarn to tell. Where a gravestone and memorial is in need of restoration, this could help make that happen. Where the art on the gravestone is not understood, this could be investigated. It is possible Ross could become a home for understanding the art on old gravestones and memorials, and knowing where the graves are found. Understanding the carved art on old gravestones, may help students, scholars and anyone interested, work out what the art on the Ross Bridge means.
An 1836 costume event could be held in the Town Hall, with period music, and a play.
A giant bonfire could be raised, and the army invited to blow up a small wooden bridge that their engineers have built, if that is safe.
Who would like to participate in next year’s Ross Bridge Festival, or would like to help make it happen?
We welcome ideas and suggestions to help create an amazing event in Ross in October every year.ENQUIRIES ~
Heritage & Landcare in Ross
39 Bridge Street
Kim Peart ~ 0400 856 523
Mr Kim Peart at the Ross Bridge Festival. ~ PHOTO by Jennifer Bolton Fallen tree by the Macquarie River, presenting a threat to the Ross Bridge in the next flood ~ Old map of Ross. ~ We would like to find out who designed the unique town plan for Ross. ~ This could have been the work of Gov. Macquarie ~
The old Clinic in Ross, which could serve as a community arts, history, heritage and landcare centre ~
Heritage parkland south of the Ross Bridge, owned by the Council. Should sensitive improvement of this reserve, which is quite large, have priority in Ross, in support of the next National Heritage list application with the Ross Bridge? ~
The only book ever published on the Ross Bridge, by Leslie Greener and Norman Laird in 1971 ~
Old photo showing the steps were in need of repair, which has happened ~
In this old post card, a windmill can be seen over the bridge, once used to pump water from the Macquarie River to a sandstone water tank above, which can be seen in the image above of the heritage reserve. ~
News story on the old Ross viaduct, which was demolished when the Midlands Highway by-passed Ross ~
The old Ross viaduct can be seen in this aerial photo taken in 1947 ~
Photo showing the old Ross viaduct seen in the 1971 book by Greener and Laird ~
Very old photo of the Ross viaduct in service ~
In this photo of the old Ross viaduct, a large stone barn can be seen at Roseneath, missing its roof. The building is no longer there ~
A drawing of the Ross Bridge art by June MacLucas, made in the 1980s. The full set of drawings are in the Burnie Regional Art Gallery. This drawing is in the Tasmanian Wool Centre in Ross ~
Detail of the Ross Bridge art showing the king, believed to be a portrait of Jorgen Jorgenson, the Danish adventurer who was popularly known as the ex-king of Iceland, and his wife Norah, as the queen. Both were convicts, and here they are the king and the queen of the convicts ~
The end of the king's nose broke away one frosty winter night in the 1960s, and fell into the Macquarie River. The painting by Kim Peart replaced the end of his nose ~
This carving by Daniel Herbert was made before he worked on the Ross Bridge, and can be seen in the Botanical Gardens in Hobart ~
Daniel Herbert and his wife Mary ~
The urn was recorded by Les Kulinski, who also made a full-size replica of the memorial seen in the Tasmanian Wool Centre ~
The weathered remains of the urn on Daniel Herbert's memorial went missing one day ~ taken by a tomb raider ~
and then one day, it mysteriously reappeared ~
The weathered remains of Daniel Herbert's urn can be seen in the Tasmanian Wool Centre ~
Gravestone in the Old Military Burial Ground in Ross, believed to be the work of Daniel Herbert ~
The foot-stone to the above grave, is now located in the Tasmanian Wool Centre. A copy of this stone could be made and located at the burial ground. Such copies can be made by scanning a carving, and then have a machine do the work of carving from the scan. There are examples of this with machine-made carvings of the bridge art in the Tasmanian Wool Centre ~
This grave in the Anglican Cemetery in Ross is an example of a memorial that could be restored, by repairing the wooden fence and painting it white ~
The delicate line drawing in stone could be the work of Daniel Herbert. When Kim Peart made a study of winged effigies on old gravestones in Tasmania, he found that every single one of them was different, and in Ross, they were different again. In Ross, the winged effigies were delicate line drawings ~
A postcard from the early 1900s showing stonemasons at work in Ross ~
On the back of the post card is the message ~
There is a considerable amount of public land meant for reserves and walking trails along by the Macquarie River in Ross ~
It is legally possible to walk around the boundary road of Ross now ~