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The 1821 Macquarie Bicentenary
Kim Peart 
18 November 2017

In 2021 six towns in Tasmania will have an opportunity to celebrate their official birth, being named by Gov. Lachlan Macquarie on his 1821 tour of Van Diemen’s Land.

Gov. Macquarie, Lady Macquarie, their son, Lachlan junior, and the official party sailed from Sydney on April 4th, arriving in Hobart on April 24th, after a very slow passage up the River Derwent.

From Hobart they travelled to Launceston and on to George Town, on very rough roads.

On the journey south to Hobart Gov. Macquarie named Perth (May 30th), Campbell Town (May 31st), Ross (June 2nd), Oatlands (June 3rd), Brighton (June 5th), and on an excursion from Hobart, named Sorell on June 20th.

The events were covered in some detail in the daily journal kept by Gov. Macquarie, and offer a fascinating window into old Van Diemen’s Land.

Whether there were any more towns named by Gov. Macquarie in 1821, but not recorded in the journal, may be revealed by historians from other records.

One detail of interest is what the places named by Gov. Macquarie were called before he stamped them with an official birth certificate.

On his previous visit to Van Diemen’s Land in 1811, he named Elizabeth Town, now renamed New Norfolk, and set up four military posts through the Midlands, at the locations to be named Brighton, Oatlands, Ross and Perth.

What those locations were called before being given their birth certificate, and what Sorell was called before 1821, is a detail to be tracked down.

Does anyone know?

Many places that were renamed by Gov. Macquarie had earlier names reflecting rougher times, and people were not always pleased with the new fancy names bestowed by the governor.

There were many other places named along the way by Gov. Macquarie, who is often referred to as the Father of Australia. 

He liked to hammer his official stamp on the nation in waiting, and is credited with laying the foundation that turned an often wild colony into an organised society.

At the time Van Diemen’s Land was part of New South Wales, becoming an independent colony in 1825, with the name changed to Tasmania in 1853.


Towns and Councils may remember the naming of the towns two centuries ago, and celebrate the bicentenary.

Considering how there was a waltz through time over a couple of months in 1821, there is the possibility of a shared event across Tasmania.

If other towns visited also wished to participate in the 1821 progress of Gov. Macquarie, 200 years on, there could be a progressive event following the trail of the Macquarie tour.

This could include participants performing the role of the governor, his family and the official party.

Others could join in with period costume, if they wish, to follow the tour.

This could begin in the north at George Town, and make its way to each town celebrating their bicentenary.

If there were interest in a larger event, this could begin in Sydney, sail to Hobart, and follow the governor’s tour around Van Diemen’s Land, then sail from Hobart on June 30th and conclude the adventure in Sydney on July 12th, 200 years on.


With heritage running back 65,000 years, there were earlier Aboriginal names for all the places that Gov. Macquarie visited and named.

The earlier names, their meaning and the culture of the people can be remembered and honoured.


With Lachlan junior travelling with Gov. and Lady Macquarie, there is a unique educational opportunity to explore the land and people of the time, through a child’s eyes in a strange land in the colonial days.


How many of the towns remembered their centenaries in 1921?

The Ross community remembered, publishing a book to commemorate the event. [1]

A search may reveal similar histories for other towns, and whether a history was written of the whole 1821 event with Gov. Macquarie on the island.

What may have happened on June 2nd 1921 in Ross is not revealed in the booklet, but a search of old newspapers may shed light on this.

What could have happened in other towns, if the centenary was celebrated?

If the interest is there, and funding is available, an historian could be engaged to write a bicentenary history of Gov. Macquarie’s 1821 tour of Van Diemen’s Land.

If the towns were interested, a local history booklet for each birthday town could also be produced.


Older residents could be interviewed and their stories collected.

Oral history is not always an accurate account of the past, but stories often have a power of their own and can hold a truth of another kind.

In Oatlands recently one resident suggested that the town had been named twice by Gov. Macquarie.

An examination of the governor’s journal reveals no mention of the naming of Oatlands in 1811, though he did name Antill Ponds to the north in that year, Argyle Plains near the present town of Ross, where a government cattle station was established to breed bullocks, and Epping Forest on December 6th, 1811.

It was also in 1811 that the Macquarie River was named by Gov. Macquarie.

We do know a military post was established on the shore of Lake Dulverton from 1811, and there may have been settlers there as colonists moved up the country.

So Oatlands would have had an earlier name, and would have been renamed in 1821.

There would also have been an Aboriginal name for the area, and this would have also been displaced by the naming of Oatlands in 1821.


If a Macquarie re-enactment travels through the island, 200 years on, this would also be an opportunity to create a film of the event.


An art exhibition on the theme of the 1821 Macquarie visit, and the history of the towns, could also happen.


A costume event with period music and dance could be held in each town along the way, to celebrate the bicentenary. 

In Hobart and Launceston, there could be an opportunity for a rather grand event.


Each town celebrating their bicentenary could bury a time capsule, to be opened at the tercentenary in 2121.

Could any towns have created a time capsule at their centenary events?


In April 2016, during the last Federal election, I proposed the creation of a trail along Australia’s east coast, to connect convict sites from Moreton Bay to Port Arthur. [2]

This attracted interest at the time, but not an election commitment, or a government program.

Could the Australian Convict Trail be revisited, and even launched as part of the 2021 bicentenary events in Tasmania?

Many stretches of this trail already exist, including the 43 kilometres of the World Heritage listed convict built Great North Road, running between Sydney and Newcastle. [3]

If a Federal commitment could be secured for an extended convict trail, the preferred route could be identified, and offshoots to convict sites included.

With a larger national plan in hand, State governments could grasp the nettle and begin creating the trail.

Local Councils could include the convict trail in their local works program, though much of the responsibility for the trail may fall within the bounds of State governments.

In Ross there is a need for a footpath and cycle way between Ross and Campbell Town, so people could walk the ten kilometres between the towns if they wish to, or run, or cycle, or ride their mobility scooter.

If there is a national vision for a convict trail, then the route of any local trail could be designed to work in with the national plan, such as following a road or highway that was originally made by convicts.


For many people, walking the Australian Convict Trail, or part of it, would be like making a pilgrimage through time and history, discovering the foundations of the nation.


Promoting an Australian Convict Trail will be an alternative way to attract visitors to the regional areas of Tasmania, with a genuine experience of history, heritage, farming, environment, arts and local cuisine, while engaging in a healthy outdoor experience.

Many people travel to Tasmania at present to walk, cycle and experience history, and the Tasmanian government is seeking to expand this experience.

A September media release from Premier Will Hodgman stated, “Tasmania has enormous potential to become the cycle tourism capital of Australia and our plan is to seize the opportunity in this emerging market.” [4]

For this vision to be realised, trails will need to be created, for visitors to be able to engage in a heritage and environmental experience.

With visitor numbers to Tasmania on the rise, there is every reason under the Sun to walk the talk and create the way for people to be able to safely walk and cycle around the island.

Competing with cars and trucks on highway verges is not always healthy, pleasant, or safe, and is often not legally permitted.

The highway work running past Tunbridge toward Ross at a cost of many millions of dollars, could have included a walking and cycle way, but didn’t.

If there was a walking and cycle way from Hobart to the oldest bridge in Australia, at Richmond, this could be promoted as an attraction, especially with so many interesting distractions along that road.

Perhaps the ghost of Gov. Macquarie can be raised in 2021, to help create the next great visitor experience in Tasmania, and along the east coast of Australia, with an Australian Convict Trail.


As the trail is created and visitors partake of the experience, accommodation options will be needed, from camping, to 5 star retreats.

In days gone by, when many people walked from town to town, there were many country inns to meet their needs.


A hire industry may be created, where a bicycle can be hired in one town and left in the next, from where a visitor may choose to walk to the town beyond.

Electric bikes could be included in this mix.

A person with mobility issues could drive their scooter, recharging in the towns.

As robot exo-skeletons replace the wheel chair, allowing people of all ages greater mobility and fitness, there will be a need to be able to recharge the mobility unit at towns along the way.


Another service that may emerge, is the role of a commuter coach, which people could book to take them to a chosen location, where they can walk along a selected section of the trail.

A commuter coach may also serve the residents of towns along the way, by being able to book a seat to go to the airport.

Drawing services to the regions with an Australian Convict Trail, would improve the quality of life for residents living in country locations.


An alternative to commuter coaches, would be a revival of train services.


Visitors to regions travelling light, needing accommodation and sustenance, will also have spending power.

A souvenir, or a work of art, may be purchased in a country gallery, and then dispatched home by Post or courier.


With the rise in virtual and augmented reality, new experiences can be created.

A person planning a visit to Tasmania may use a virtual reality (VR) headset to explore Ross and find out what is there.

In time, the whole Australian Convict Trail and all offshoots could be explored with a VR headset. 

People anywhere on Earth could have a virtual holiday experience, without leaving home.

Anyone visiting a place along the trail could use augmented reality through a tablet to discover what was there at any given year, and also learn about the wildlife.

When back home, it would be possible to revisit places of interest with the VR headset, and even communicate with people they had met along the way.

The VR headset will also be a way to examine all the mysterious carvings on the Ross Bridge, from all angles, and explore their story in stone, once the VR experience is created. [5]


The idea for an Australian Convict Trail began out of a call for a walking and cycle trail between Ross and Campbell Town.

Everyone loves the thought of it, but politicians are slow to provide it.

If it is possible to raise the vision to a national level, with an Australian Convict Trail, the impossible can become history.

This experience of history, country and heritage could become quite an amazing adventure, and this adventure could begin with Gov. Macquarie’s 1821 tour of Van Diemen’s Land, beginning in Sydney, and traversing the island.

People used to walk a great deal once, and that age can return, along with cycling and other forms of light mobility.

Success will also bring the tourist dollar to country towns.


[1] Ross Centenary: glimpses of its history
By R.C.K., 1921

[2] Moreton Bay to Port Arthur
Kim Peart, 30 April 2016, Tasmanian Times

[3] The Great North Road

[4] Growing Tasmania’s Cycle Tourism Industry
Will Hodgman, Premier’s Media Release, 27 September 2017

[5] The Mysterious Art of the Ross Bridge
Kim Peart, 6 August 2012, Tasmanian Times

Heritage Value of the Ross Bridge and its Carved Art
Kim Peart, 10 September 2014, Tasmanian Times

Kim Peart is a visual artist, researcher and writer. In 1996 Kim proposed a walking trail along the hills from Bellerive to Droughty Point, which he called the Sky Walk, and engaged in land and bushcare activities in Clarence. In 1998 University of Tasmania students made a study of the Sky Walk. In January 2007 Kim was included in The A List of Movers and Shakers in Tasmania by the Mercury at 115 in regard to, “An urban bushland conservationist who has worked tirelessly over the years to maintain walking tracks and protect wildlife from the encroachment of bush-front housing developments.” Kim now lives in Ross, where he is promoting the creation of walking trails around the area.

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