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Tin Mountain - Review - The Sunday Tasmanian - 2 March 2014

Ruins remain of the tin age.

This is a remarkable book. It deals with an aspect of Tasmanian history not well known. The Blue Tier in North-East Tasmania was known to the Chinese tin miners as 'Tin Mountain' - hence the title of the book.

Garry Richardson is a noted historian and has researched the subject extensively. He has amassed a great deal of primary source material to produce this comprehensive book on the area.

"When the first tin miners were prospecting the Blue Tier and its surrounds, there were no tracks and everything required was carried on their backs .... to battle away at the scrub in all weather trying to find a rich prospect of tin must have been extremely daunting", Richardson says.

The discovery of tin at Weldborough and the Blue Tier happened in 1875.

Quite apart form the many whites who got involved, the Chinese were an integral part of tin mining in the North East and generally, relations between the two races were cordial and welcoming.

Once the prospectors came, the families followed, bringing in schools, churches, shops, hotels, sporting clubs, entertainment such as local dances, post offices and homes.

The area boomed, but post World War II there was virtually nothing left.

Getting there was always a problem, because of the appalling roads, and in 1888 the following description was given : "The Blue Tier township is the end of the world, seemingly as anything like a reasonable road terminates here. There are pack tracks it is true, but these are simply a disconnected series of bog holes nine months out of 12".

It is incredible to think how vibrant these communities were and how nothing exists except memories and ruins.

The book deals with the various and numerous companies which worked the mines, such as the Laffer and Norwegian Company, the Niagara Company, Wikborg of Hobart Town, Albert Mining Company and Rosetta Tin Mining Company.

Many colourful characters are highlighted, such as champion shooter S O'Flaherty, who "secured five matches out of seven, breaking 120 bottles in succession without a miss".

According to Robert Davye, who arrived at the tin mines of Weldborough in the early days and who was engaged to take a census of the Chinese, there were about 1100 of them in the area.

It took Davey 16 days to visist all the Chinese in the district and he had to travel on foot over rough bush tracks. The material concerning the Chinese is fascinating.

Maa Mon Chin, who lived at Weldborough with his family in 1897, recalled : "My father was a sort of leader in the community and not only did he do mining, he started a Chines and English store. We used to have Chines and European goods. He used to hold money for a number of people because the nearest bank was at Derby.

Later he added : "My father never smoked opium but I suppose about 80 per cent did". Chin and his family subsequently moved to Victoria, where he died in 1923.

The book fills a vacuum in the history of Tasmania. It is an attractive volume, A4 size, well bound, with glossy pages featuring many photographs and maps. With index, 350 pages.

Recommended.

Reg Watson

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