The Commandant’s house at Port Arthur was symbolic of the rule of the British Empire’s elite over all they surveyed. His rule was matched only by the authority of God, who’s place in the order of things was set out at the other end of the settlement, also high on a hill.
Curious though isn’t it, that priority for construction of buildings in the settlement was the Commandant’s house first and the Church second. Methinks someone may have been getting a bit big for their boots. Of course there was no-one around to point that out – so that’s how they rolled.
The convicts sure weren’t going to say anything. Nope, take a step out of line between the watchful eye of the Empire and the Lord Almighty and it was off to the Separate Prison for you!
The Separate Prison is… separate from the penitentiary and in the Separate Prison you were kept separate from the other prisoners. No speaking at all, between anyone, ever, unless it was singing in the chapel on Sunday’s. Even then every convict had his own little cubicle so that he could not interact with anyone else. Guess that’s why it’s called the Separate Prison.
Yep daring to hint that the Commandant should perhaps build God’s house before his own would have been sure to land you 23 hours a day in 2 by 3 metre cell. This of course is a surefire way to help a fella realise the error of his ways and transform him into a model citizen – fit to be a subject of his or her majesty. What, with all that time to think, how could you come to any other conclusion?
Of course if you did (come to any other conclusion that is) your 23 hours a day in a tiny cell would be replaced with 23 hours a day in a tiny DARK cell, absolutely no light. Ya canna see your nose in there I’m telling you. I tried it. I didn’t like it. I left. Way back then, that wasn’t an option. Sheesh. Next door there is an Asylum. No really.
Of course it’s easy to be judgmental here and now. In its day Port Arthur was revolutionary. Here prisoners were sorted for the first time in history such that murderers did not sleep side by side with petty thieves, and although it seems abominable that a 7 year old could be sentenced just the same as an adult, Port Arthur included the world’s first juvenile detention centre. Still, ‘twas a cruel machine that set out to reform though the hardest of labour and to crush anyone that would not tow the line.
Right up there with Port Arthur on the list of tourist ‘must do’s’ on the Tasman Penninsula is the little village of Doo Town. Either a conspiracy, to which all residents are privy, has swept the town or a dictator runs it. Either way every house in Doo Town has ‘doo’ in its name. There’s ‘Thistle doo’, ‘Much Adoo’ ‘Love me Doo’, Mal’s Dooghouse’, ‘It’ll Doo for now’ and my personal favourite ‘Doo F@*K All’.
Doo Town cannot be avoided on route to some of the Tasman Penninsula’s must doo attractions such as the Dog Line at Eaglehawk Neck, the Tessellated Pavement, the Blowhole, Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen. There is also another of Tassie’s 60 Great Short Walks along the cliff tops to Waterfall Bay. I read Amy and Oliver four chapters of Enid Blyton’s ‘The Five Find-Outers’ on route. They are much better hikers when entertained – I only asked that they interrupt me if I appeared to be heading for a sizeable drop off, or if there was something worth seeing.
To the south of Port Arthur is the remarkable Remarkable Cave, although as Oliver pointed out it is more of a tunnel than a cave. We arrive at low tide and so through caution to the wind, lept the barricade and took a wander. The tunnel went for about 50 metres through the cliffs and opened out onto a pretty beach nestled at the base of towering cliffs, a very popular spot for surfers apparently.
To the east of Port Arthur is the lovely Fortescue Bay. It has formed between what must have been a weak spot in the dolerite cliffs that run up and down the coast. Forest all around, white sands and cool clear water and no one there to enjoy it except us. Such a pity. I pulled on my running boots and ran the 10 kilometres out to Cape Huay, while Emma, Amy and Oliver honed their indigenous ‘kelp water carrier’ making skills.
Final stop on our tour of the Tasman was the ‘Coal mines’ historic site. If you mucked up round at Port Arthur there was a good chance you would have ended up here, digging coal in the freezing cold to keep the Commandant cozy back on his hill.