Kentish’s 2nd Great Leader

Young John Hope arrived in Launceston from Lanarkshire, Scotland on 23 July 1857, his 15th birthday. He was the oldest son of David & Janet Hope who had sailed from Glasgow aboard the Forest Monarch with 316 other passengers. His younger siblings were James (14), David (13), Andrew (11), George (10), Thomas (5), Henry (2), and baby Janet. The family settled at Bowerbank Mill, Deloraine, where David was employed for the next nine years. Two final children Ann & William, born there made 10 children.

In May 1861, David Hope journeyed to newly surveyed Kentish Plains and selected his future farm – a large 151-acre block two miles south of Sheffield, now Glen Lea, 349 Claude Rd. Then he returned to Deloraine to earn more money and gain more experience. As the Hope family grew up, in 1863 eldest son big John (now 21), was lured to the goldfields, first in NZ, then in Vic, NSW, and Qld. The second oldest son James, having secured a good job at Bowerbank flour mill, decided he would stay there. Then in January 1864, a third son George Hope (17) drowned trying to cross the flooded Meander river near Deloraine.

So in 1866, David (48) & Janet (47) Hope, with their seven remaining children, crossed the Mersey River in their bullock wagons and made it to their own bush block, selected five years earlier. They found the bush was alive with brush possums. David and his younger sons erected their primitive homestead which, in true Scottish form, they called Burnside. Sadly, David Hope Snr developed liver disease and died within two years.

Getting the devastating news of his father’s untimely death, eldest son John, now 27, speedily returned from six years adventuring around Australasia to take charge of developing the big bush property for his mother. Janet Hope Snr was a true Scottish lady who bravely faced the difficulties of raising a large family on her own. She originally attended the Union Chapel in Sheffield (old section of Chinese restaurant), but when the Wesleyan Church was built across the street, became a devout member there for the rest of her life. Once walking home through the bush from a church tea meeting, she became lost and spent the night in the bush.

Pioneering Local Farmer

With the wide experience gained during his years of travelling, John was better informed than most immigrant farmers. He was also energetic and creative. On 5 August 1875, John Hope (33) married a younger English girl Elizabeth Wilson (20) in the home of her parents, Joseph & Sarah Wilson, on their Sheffield farm. Elizabeth’s brother John T Wilson was the popular proprietor of the Sheffield Inn (now the Caltex Service Station). John & Elizabeth had a family of 11 children.

Although his neighbour John Duff was older with a teenage family, the two Scotchmen bonded, serving together on the Kentish Road Trust and other committees. At the 2nd NW Agricultural Show at Latrobe in 1876, John Duff & John Hope were joint judges of Root Crop Section of their Produce display.

In Oct 1878, John Hope bought two prime 60-acre blocks at the western end of Sheffield on the corner of ‘the crossroads’. These two blocks were divided by Main St, and their western boundaries were West Kentish Rd & West Nook Rd. John Hope had probably intended to establish his own farm there, but then backtracked and purchased his father’s Burnside property for himself. The two town blocks were sold to his brother Henry Hope, who built the home which, until recently, was owned by Peter & Evie Morse. Part of the other block north of Main St was eventually purchased by another brother James Hope, who had previously chosen to remain in Deloraine. James distinguished himself by erecting a mammoth three-storey landmark on the corner of the crossroads – Hope’s steam-roller flour mill.

Early Church/Community Activities. Always a leader among men, John Hope worked incredibly hard for his family, his church, and ultimately the whole Kentish community. With their ever-increasing family, John & Elizabeth joined the Union Chapel, where he served as Sunday School Superintendent. When the new Methodist church opened across the road in 1882, he continued this task for a total of 25 years. John was also a founding trustee and the last to die. In November 1896 he became a trustee of the new Methodist church at Claude Road as well. A pillar of the church, he regularly attended quarterly sessions of the Methodist Conference and occasionally their meetings in Melbourne.

In May 1873 John Hope was first elected to the Kentish Road Trust which met on Saturday mornings at the Sheffield Hotel. Two years later he became Treasurer, and for the next 30 years was either chairman, secretary, or treasurer of that body until all Road Trusts were abolished to form the Municipality of Kentish in 1908. In 1879, after visiting the new mineral claims on Mt Claude, John Hope and John Duff, together with the Northern Inspector for Roads George Simmons, returned through the bush along the hilltops between the Dasher and Forth Rivers back to Kentishbury. This was the catalyst for opening up the rest of the Promised Land and Staverton.

On 17 September 1879, the largest meeting ever seen in Sheffield led to the formation of the Sheffield Railway League. Its object was to obtain a railway line to service the Kentish district. John Hope became leader of this committee and consistently battled for the next 35 years until the deed was done. That same year saw John become a Trustee of the Sheffield Public Cemetery in High St. and, in 1884, Justice of the Peace. When new government regulations called for the first Kentish Board of Health to be formed in November 1887, John Hope (45) was the oldest of three local leaders chosen. Yet, surprisingly, when compulsory smallpox vaccinations began to be advocated, John joined with the Anti-Vaccination protesters. He argued: Forty-five years ago in England I was vaccinated and nearly lost my arm. To this day I wear a scar that was left behind by this filthy practice.

As early as 1887, the Government began advocating that local Road Trusts throughout Tasmania should be amalgamated to form new regional Municipalities. They gazetted a proposed new Latrobe Municipality which included all of Barrington, Nook, Railton, and Stoodley, with its boundary line coming right up to the township of Sheffield. Suddenly, municipal boundaries became a huge issue of enormous local interest. A crowded public meeting in Sheffield, on Saturday 18 October 1887, saw John Hope lead the charge against Latrobe trying to take over Kentish. He said There is little time to waste. We must take a resolute stand and fight as one man for our rights. It is not fair for Latrobe to take away one half of our extensive district. When Kentish’s first outstanding leader Robert Manley (51) died suddenly in August 1889, John Hope (45) stepped into the vacancies created, as Coroner for Kentish and their representative on the Devon Cottage Hospital Board at Latrobe.

His Farm Developments. In 1887 John Hope began to lease a 101-acre block adjoining his farm on the mountain side. He built a worker’s cottage down near the Dasher River and between these two properties opened a long lane into them, which has now become the Paradise Rd. John often had field days on his farm that demonstrated new ideas and new machinery. In the early 1890s Hope designed his own exceptionally large 73ft x 41ft farm building, capable of housing 30 cows overnight. It had cow stalls on each side with a 20 ft clear space in the middle. In addition, the shed could store 4 tons of hay and about 60 wagon loads of swedes, turnips, and mangolds. John Hope was the district’s largest grower of root crops, which he feds to his cows through wintertime. In June 1893 he became the chairman of directors for the new Kentish Butter Factory in Sheffield. When John was elected to Parliament, his 4th son Norman Hope (father of Reg Hope MLC) took over managing Burnside for him.

Parliamentary Career

In March 1900 John Hope (58) was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly and won every subsequent election he contested. His electorate kept changing names: Devonport 1900-1903, Kentish 1903-1909, and Wilmot 1909-1911. In 1911 he resigned from the House of Assembly to successfully contest the Legislative Council seat of Meander, which he held for 15 years until his death in 1926. In 1903 he was elected a Warden of the Mersey Marine Board and remained a member for 23 years.

By 1905, the time had finally come to abolish all 149 Road Trusts in Tasmania and replace them with Municipalities. In Hobart John Hope was one of five parliamentarians appointed to a Special Commission responsible for setting these new municipal boundaries. We can largely thank our ‘Kentish Watch-Dog’ that our district was not absorbed into the Latrobe municipality. At the end of 1907, 15 local councillors were elected, 3 each from 5 different wards. At their initial meeting on 6 January 1908, in the Oddfellows Hall, John Hope MHA was unanimously chosen as the first Warden of the first Kentish municipal council. Afterwards he invited the new councillors to the Sheffield Hotel to enjoy a hot meal together. It was on John Hope’s initiative that they always invited the visiting newspaper reporter to join them and pay for his lunch. John Hope’s public career was becoming eminently well. In 1911 his many local Kentish supporters honoured him by hanging an enlarged framed photograph of Mr Hope in the Warden’s room at the new temporary municipal offices at the Court House (now the Service Tas) in High St.

World War I was declared on 28 July 1914, one week after John Hope’s 72 birthday. It had a huge impact on Kentish, and even though John’s son survived Gallipoli, he died from its affects within 10 years. However, the last half of 1914 saw the completion of some of John Hope’s greatest local achievements. On 19 August the new Sheffield Municipal Hall & Council Chambers were opened in High St – ‘a very notable day in the history of Kentish’.

On 6 November the long-awaited Railton to Roland Railway line was officially opened by the Hon Joseph Lyons, Tas Minister for Railways. It had taken 35 years to achieve and John Hope was one of only two surviving members of the original Sheffield Railway League. In his proud speech Hope declared, with a fair bit of parliamentary privilege, that ‘when he came to Kentish, all the population could be put in a bullock dray.’ Finally, at the end of December 1914, the short-cut deviation road to Paradise was completed. John had chaired most meetings and generously gave his long laneway into the Dasher river to be made into a public road.

Retired from council, promoted in parliament. In June 1919 Hon John Hope retired from the Kentish council after 46 years continuous service, first on the old Kentish Road Trust, since then the present Kentish Municipal Council. Councillor Braid said, Excepting for Dan Burke of Westbury, no man in Tasmania had a better record of public service than the Hon John Hope. When he came to Kentish there were only 10 chains of metal road in the district. Now there are over 100 miles of good metal roads. Down in Hobart however, John Hope was promoted to Chairman of the Legislative Council Committee in 1921 until his death in 1926. In August 1922 he was also made Speaker of the House and had to occupy the magnificently carved, throne-like chair provided for the President in the Legislative Council. Though an octogenarian, John Hope remained one of Tasmania’s best known and most effective politicians.

Many Mourn John’s Death

In their old age, John and Elizabeth Hope moved from his Burnside farm into 30 High St, Sheffield, where after a short illness he died still in office on 12 May 1926. Many times during his life his expressed desire to ‘die in harness’, was fulfilled. A flag flying half-mast at the Town Hall indicated to the public that Hon John Hope had passed away. The cortege left his late residence 30 High street at 3pm, preceded by close to 100 children from the Sheffield State school. Following the hearse were two cars loaded with wreaths, then members of the large Hope family, members of Parliament, local councillors, and a cavalcade of horsemen, horse vehicles, and some 60 motor cars. The procession was over a mile long, and the whole distance between the town and the cemetery was lined with grieving people. No tribute to a person like this had ever been witnessed in Kentish before.

Fifteen months later, on 31 October 1927, a red granite memorial tablet was unveiled in the foyer of the new Sheffield Municipal Hall. Nearly a century later it still hangs in this same place and reads: This tablet is erected to the memory of the Hon John Hope MLC who died 12 May 1926, aged 83 years. He was a Member of Parliament for 27 years, Local Government 50 years, Mersey Marine Board 23 years, Devon Hospital 17 years, Coroner I3 years, Justice of the Peace 42 years, first Warden of Kentish Council, and one of the pioneers who transformed this district from a state of nature to its present state of fertility.