Our  Mountainside Pioneers (2)

The road along the valley of the Dasher River beneath majestic Mt Roland was quickly recognized as one of the great scenic drives of Kentish. First formed as a prospectors and miners track, the earliest maps mark it as Mt Claude Road. But by 1890 the need to name the emerging settlement along the foothills of Mt Roland became the catalyst for calling it just Claude Road. About three years earlier, James Reed built a vertical sawmill along this road close to the corner of Kings Road. It was Reed’s offer of employment that first drew four young brothers, James, Joseph, Alfred, & George Febey, to settle close to his mill. Joe’s job was benchman; Alf’s tailing-out; James & George’s felling timber in the bush. These young men were sons of ex-convict James Febey, Field’s stockman who once occupied their hut on the Kentish Plains. In December 1904, James Reed moved his sawmill up to Gowrie Park. All four Febeys married locally, settling either in Claude Road or Paradise. In the 1930s Alf’s son Bern Febey bought Gustav Weindorfer’s old Red Indian motor bike from Robert Braid. Doug Febey turned it into a two-wheel cart for Alwyn Febey to wheel out his cream cans. Joseph’s son Roy Febey sold a small section of his property, fronting on Claude Road, to Vic & Ivy Perkins to build their house. Vic began dominating Tasmanian woodchopping events in 1943 when he held all three -10,12 & 15 inch – chopping championships at the same time. He reached his peak in 1946 when he won the World Championship Axeman’s title held that year in Fingal. In about 1910 the Post Office moved from Lockett’s sawmill to Mrs Emily Whiley’s small store on Enoch George’s corner block at Claude Road and Kings Rd. Her son Alf Whiley bought an up-to-date horse-coach, capable of carrying 9 passengers for the daily mail run to and from Sheffield. A telephone line was connected to her shop on 9 April,1913.

Kings Road (previously Georges Rd)   

Enoch & Elizabeth (Perkins) George (9 chn) bought a big block from her brother John Perkins up under the mountain in 1893. Elizabeth became local nurse & midwife. Later Enoch’s older brother Elijah joined them. Both Elijah & Enoch were born at Entally, Hadspen, where their father was coachman to Thomas Reiby. Enoch lived to be 98. His son Os George took over the property when his parents retired to Sheffield. Athol King owned the top property when it was officially named Kings Rd. Others up this road were Jim & Caroline Febey (5 chn) and Tom & Lucy (Steers) McCoy (10 chn). Lucy later bought a shop in Sheffield opposite the RSL. Jock & Alma (Martin) McCoy (7 chn) built their new house at the bottom of Kings Road. Jock and his sons Don, Max & Keith were carpenters and between them built over 50 houses, halls, & schools all around the Kentish Municipality. Kings Road has become the new access road to the walking track up the front of Mt Roland, and since 1991 the final steep descent of one of Australia’s most iconic trail running events, the annual 19.5km Triple Top Mountain run, the brainchild of local veterinarian Ian Anderson.

Lockwoods & Careys Road

Joseph & Ellen Cox (3 chn) settled down this road where they held the first church services in Claude Road. Their son George was killed while using a team of bullocks to shift logs, when a heavy iron hook flew off a stump and hit him in the back of the head. Dave & Anne Billing (10 chn) came from Launceston in 1885 and settled down Lockwoods Road beside the Dasher river. Anne had worked in a Brisbane St fashion shop and was used to fine clothes and silk stockings. Dave had another farm up on Mt Gog beyond Paradise, where he camped overnights in a big, hollow tree. Branching off Lockwoods Road, the Claude Road end of Careys Rd was originally Hetherington’s Road. It was here in 1886 that Joseph & Mary Hetherington (5 chn) purchased 52 acres and 3 years later another 45 acres. Their son Stanley (always known as Bill) ran the Claude Road shop and mail car for several decades. Adjoining Hetheringtons, Tom & Grace Cock (7 chn) had 127 acres. Tom married American-born Grace in England prior to coming to Claude Road where he was an overseer for the Kentishbury Road Trust. In 1899 Grace (38) died from childbirth complications.

Claude Road State School

John Hope MHA was instrumental in securing funding to build a proper school. He and John Duff, chairman of the Kentish Schools Board of Advice, personally walked along Claude Road to select the best 5-acre site, close to the present Claude Road Public Hall. The 30ft x 18ft school and four-bedroom schoolhouse was built by Ernest Lloyd and his workmen from Ulverstone for £415/17/ and opened by John Hope on 15 May 1905. The front of the school had a gated fence with a garden and flagpole. In Feb 1914, when 10 families at Claude Road had 100 children between them, the school was extended by Arthur Bayley at a cost of £147/10/-.

Three memorable school incidents:

1. Sat. 30 Jan 1926 – Regatta Day on the Dasher River. Head teacher Arthur Jessop had the Dasher River dammed on Alf Whiley’s property to create an 80-metre stretch of water for canoe, dingy, tub, model boat, and swimming races.

2. In 1932, after staying some weeks in Maddox’ Hotel, Sheffield, famous Tasmanian novelist Marie Bjelke-Petersen published one of her best-selling books The Rainbow Lute, based on the rural settlement of Claude Road. It was about a likable schoolteacher who comes to the district and deals with two rivals for her hand. 3. When Ed (Dick) Fleming was headmaster (1933-1940), the School Inspector arrived early one Monday morning unannounced to check how punctual everyone was arriving at school, but no one turned up. After half an hour he went to a nearby home and asked a boy: ‘Isn’t there any school today?’ The boy said: ‘No sir, it is a holiday.’ ‘Why is that?’ The boy explained: ‘Well sir, Mr Fleming and some of our Dads have gone up Mt Roland catching possums. When the fog comes down heavy, they are often a day late returning. Apparently, Fleming got into serious trouble and had promotion points deduced.

With the closure of country schools in Jan 1942, Bill Hetherington began driving a school bus (fitted with a war-time gas producer) from Gowrie, Claude Road, and Paradise, to Sheffield Area School & back, in addition to doing his daily mail-car run in between.

Claude Road Memorial Hall

In 1958 Jack Dawson suggested to Don McCoy that they raise money to build a public Memorial Hall to honour their local diggers from both World Wars. They opened this Memorial Hall beside the disused school on 2 April 1960. Inside was a photo display of all local returned soldiers. Only 2½ years later, on 3 Nov 1962, Bill Hetherington was burning off in his backyard when the wind carried hot embers into the gutters of the old school building which were full of leaves. Once the school & schoolhouse got alight there was no hope of stopping it spreading to the new Memorial Hall – all were destroyed by fire. But the locals were determined to rebuild. The present Memorial Hall, commenced on 1 Jul 1963 by Don & Max McCoy with timber cut by the Rouses, opened on 18 August 1964. Jack Dawson was able to replace all the soldiers’ photos except two.

Social gatherings have always been an integral part of Claude Road life. Old time dances were first held in John Steer’s barn, Peter Bell’s granary and later in the local School. The popularity of these monthly gatherings was largely due to the musical McCoy family who, all playing by ear, created their own band. “More than that,” said Jack Dawson, “they were natural comedians. Just watching their bush antics and listening to their slow, drawn-out drawl, you couldn’t help laughing”. They were the offspring of William McCoy, another of Field’s stockmen. George (Jimmy) McCoy played a button melodeon, Wm (Cloggy) played the fiddle, Charlie McCoy the mouth organ and swanee whistle, Bill & Dick McCoy the accordions. Bill McCoy’s wife Phyllis was an excellent pianist, but it was their son Athol McCoy (1925-1996) and Athol’s only daughter Shirl (McCoy) Brown who would put Claude Road on the map. Athol began playing in their band at the age of 10, had his own singing programme over 7AD at 22, then moved to the mainland to become one of Australia’s great Country Singers. For decades he toured Australia with his own Road Show, with his name added to Tamworth’s Country Singers Roll of Renown. Shirl McCoy began playing for the family band at age 8 and gives much credit for her success to her mother Joyce and stepfather Jack Dawson. In 1992, Shirl and her husband Geoff Brown converted a bus into a motorhome and also took to the road to promote her records. Since then, another popular musical group at Claude Road was Graham Riley’s band of piano, violin, and drums.

Perkins Drive (was Walker’s Rd)

About 1885 Frank & Sarah (Dyer) Perkins (7 chn) purchased two 50-acre blocks under Mt Roland where they built their Mountain View homestead. Upon the parents’ early deaths, Ben Perkins inherited it. When he died, it was left to his housekeeper Mrs Louisa Blacklow, daughter of prospector Llewlleyn Thomas & granddaughter of Bartholomew Thomas of Appledore Devonport. In 1933, Frank & Grace (Febey) Walker came to live up this road and John Perkins moved from the top of McCoys Road down behind the new shop.

New Shop & Post Office

In May 1920, Louisa Blacklow erected a new shop on the corner of Perkins Drive and Claude Road, and five months later the Post Office and telephone were relocated to her shop. When the Cethana PO closed Dec 1927, Louisa Blacklow’s daughter Muriel Hetherington moved to Claude Road to take over her mother’s shop & Post Office. Bill & Muriel Hetherington (2 chn) ran it for nearly 40 years, selling everything including horseshoes, nails, carbide, and smoked mutton birds in brine. As mentioned, Bill had the mail and passenger car run from Claude Road and Paradise to Sheffield and back. For many years they delivered groceries and mail to the three sawmills and several mines over the top of Mt Claude, and also had a catering contract to serve meals at the Annual Sheffield Races. Muriel Hetherington became the first woman Justice of the Peace in Kentish.

Electricity was connected to 14 houses in August 1941, the same year Nina Hetherington (18) got her driver’s license to help her dad’s daily mail and hire car. She drove carloads of people to dances, balls, and sporting fixtures. When WWII commenced, Nina responded to the RAAF call for women drivers and served all over Australia. After the War she gained a contract to transport high school students from Sheffield to Devonport High School in a brand-new bus she had built for the purpose – which she sold in 1948 to get married.

Bill Hetherington died suddenly on 19 January 1963 outside of Maddox’ Hotel in Sheffield. He had just placed a bet in the Bookmakers Club on a horse that won its race but collapsed and died before he could collect his winnings. Norm and Grace Davies took over the shop between1966-1972, then Trevor and Joy Jacklyn. Muriel Hetherington moved to Melbourne, but returned to Tandara Nursing Home, Sheffield, where she died in Oct 1982.

Nina (Hetherington) Finn’s horrific life-story, describing the tragic effects of war upon her marriages, is told in her well-written biography ‘Daughter of Australia’, published in 2000.

On the first farm past Hetherington’s shop, on 16 April 1952, Jack Perkin’s son Ron was digging potatoes on Easter Tuesday afternoon when he heard the engine of a Tiger Moth from the Devonport Aero Club spluttering, then cutting out. He watched in horror as the pilot tried to glide into an open paddock of oats. But loosing height too rapidly, the plane’s wheels were sheared off passing over a log, causing it to nose-dive into the ground. Ron ran to help and managed to pull out severely injured passenger Brian Shorey (24) of West Kentish, while the pilot, Dutch immigrant Conrad Roel (33), got himself out then collapsed. Both men were eventually conveyed to Latrobe hospital where Brian died later that day.

Wildlife Road (McCoy’s Road)

Around 1890, Field’s old stockman William McCoy with wife Mary and two younger sons Charles (19) & William (12) moved from Sheffield onto several blocks of land they owned up the top of this road. All six of their sons settled in different areas of Claude Road, the oldest sons preceding their parents by nearly a decade. William McCoy Snr (93) died in 1911, Mary McCoy (89) in 1928.  Neither Charles nor William (Cloggy) married, and in their old age came down to live in huts near the main road. Their original homesteads and huts were burnt in a bushfire. Arthur Elliott had 3 blocks on this road. In 1961 Franz Eselbock, past popular host of Waldheim Chalet, tried to establish his own Wildlife Sanctuary up this road, which included a pit full of snakes. Unfortunately, his project was doomed to fail and the only enduring legacy of his vision is the present name of this road – Wildlife Rd.