Sensational changes occurred in the first decade of the 20th Century when the ‘horseless carriage’ first appeared Tasmania. These earliest motorcars were hoodless, doorless; the original batch having hand-tillers rather that steering wheels. They looked more like a glorified buggies sitting on four smaller rubber-tyred wheels. When not in use their engines needed to be covered, but still using the mindset of horses and smelly stables, they built their car shelters anywhere up to 100 metres away from the house. Overseas the French word ‘garage’ meaning ‘put in shelter’ soon became the recognise name for this new building.

We want to list the first twenty motor cars purchased by Kentish residents:

1st Motor Car: Tas Registration #117, Feb 1906 – Hugh Powell of Sheffield.
In mid-February 1906, Hugh Powell became the first person in Kentish to buy a motor car. Born to British colonial settlers in NW India, Hugh was a gentlemen farmer, who in 1898 with his wife Margaret Powell bought the 2nd farm on the left travelling south along Spring St, (now 83 Claude Rd, Sheffield). Shortly after purchasing the car, he knocked down the only lamp post on the corner of Main & High St and horses had tow his damaged vehicle home. Driving his motor car into Maddox’s Hotel yard in Oct 1909, he smashed down the hotel fence causing considerably damaged to his car. Hugh owned the racehorse Ally Sloper and enjoyed fishing and pigeon-shooting with Dr Victor Ratten.. About 1944 Powell s farm was sold to Laurie Duff.

2nd Motor Car: Reg #118, Dec 1906 – George Rockliff of Sheffield.
One of five sons born to John Rockliff, the original pioneer of Sassafras, George Rockliff married Mary Ingram at Sassafras in 1892 and moved onto a property along the Old Paradise Road, Sheffield where their three children Clara, Ingram & Vernon Rockliff were born. About 1905 George purchased all of Richard Murfet’s properties along the Railton Rd and moved there. In Dec 1906 he followed the lead of his older brother Vincent Rockliff and purchased an identical Oldsmobile motor car. Two years earlier Vincent Rockliff (owner of the Latrobe Roller Flour Mill), had gone to Hobart and purchased one of original shipments of Oldsmobile motor cars imported by AG Websters Hobart. Bringing it home to Latrobe it was among the first cars on the NW coast. When Vernon drove it to Sheffield to visit brother George, it was among the first motor cars to venture into Kentish.
When horses and ponies first heard and saw a motor car approaching, initially they became spooked. Mrs Amelia Morse’s diaries relate a couple of instances when taken Arnold and Ruby to Sheffield, that their horse in their buggy became fearful. At the approach of George Rockliff’s motor car in 1907, the horse Tom King was riding became very agitated, breaking its girth, allowing King to be thrown onto the road receiving nasty cuts to the head.
3rd Motor Car: Reg #125, Jan 1908 – Dr Victor Ratten of Sheffield.
In Jan 1908 Dr Victor Rattan arrived in Sheffield to take over the medical practise of Dr Ed Chisholm. This young talented extravert doctor immediately opened his own private ‘St Helens’ hospital next door to his house/surgery in Sheffield. Six year later when WW1 broke out, being an army medical reservist, Ratten was immediately dispatched to an army hospital in Egypt to treat Gallipoli survivors. Following the War, he was appointed head surgeon of the Royal Hobart Hospital, where his chequered career led him to become one of Tasmania’s most flamboyant and controversial medical men.

Dr Ratten arrived in Sheffield with his own motor car, where the Kentish community found it incredible to watch the speed and comfort his express motor car carried him and all his medical requisites to the patients’ bedside. Henry Mahoney recalls the amazed look on the faces of Railton parishioners when Dr Ratten, called to a person who became ill at a church function, arrived in 8 minutes. It was claimed that Dr Ratten saved Alf Boutcher’s life after he had been bitten by a snake and arrived so quickly with the right antidote. When Dr Ratten offered an old man a fast ride in motor car from West Kentish to Sheffield, his petrified passenger responded: ‘Thanks for the ride Doc, but never again’. Rather humbling, however when occasionally, Ratten’s motor car was hauled by horses to Latrobe for repairs.

In 1908 Dr Ratten wrote to the new Kentish Council requesting that the narrow foot-bridges provided for the walking public to cross some creeks, be widened to allow his new motor car to also cross quickly and safely, rather than ploughing straight into the creeks and rivers as all bullock and horse-drawn vehicles did. Because the costs would be significant, one councillor asked how long the doctor intended to stay, as the next doctor might not have a motor car. Another councillor suggested that Dr Ratten revert to a horse and trap in winter months while the water in the creeks were running high. At the same council meeting they set the speed of motor cars in the Kentish Municipality at 15miles (24kms) per hour in the country and 8 miles (13kms) per hour in the townships.

Dr Ratten’s quick arrival at accidents at sporting fixtures was greatly appreciated. In April 1908 he was called to a Barrington football match to treat Sam Cooper for concussion. Likewise at the 1909 grand final match played at Railton, when Wilmot’s Robert Crawley went unconscious after getting kicked the head. At a local racing carnival, when the young jockey leading is race fell and the rest of pack ran over the top of him. Dr Ratten found he had several broken bones and bad bruises and conveyed him to his Sheffield hospital.

4th Motor Car: Reg #383, Nov 1909 – Dr Victor Ratten of Sheffield.
After giving his first car a 12-month trial run round Kentish district, Dr Ratten now knew exactly what he wanted next. From France he imported a much more powerful vehicle, able to negotiate the worst hills in Kentish. It was a new ‘Lorraine Deitrich’ car, silver in colour and shaped like a bullet. Before its arrival in Tasmania, he had it modified in Melbourne to his specific orders. The back ‘dickie’ seat was made to open right down to horizonal level, so that he could slide an improvised stretcher in the back of his vehicle and transport his patients to his Sheffield hospital. In June 1910 the Kentish council made great preparations for the new State Governor’s first visit to Sheffield. They arranged for Dr Ratten to meet him at Railton and give him an impressive ride in his fast open motor car to Sheffield. But continual heavy rain forced the council to revert to the traditional covered-in coach and horses. Dr Ratten came close to having several serious accidents himself. Returning from visiting a patient at Barrington in stormy weather in April 1911 his vehicle was brought to an abrupt standstill, when a large tree crash across the road just in front of him. Rounding a corner enroute to Wilmot early one morning, he came close to collided with four stray horses standing on the road.

5th Motor Car: Reg #555, Nov 1910 -Wm Richardson of Brookhead, Beulah.
This 20-hp Ford was the first car purchased by a resident outside of Sheffield. A month later Richardson put his car to good use when an elderly resident Dan Shaw needed to be conveyed to the Launceston Hospital. Once when Wm and Emma Richardson were out driving, a barking dog ran at the front of his car. Trying to avoid a collision, Wm turned the steering wheel too sharply, causing his car to roll over precipitating he and his wife on to the metal road.

6th Motor Car: Reg #847, April 1911- John Morris, High St, Sheffield.
John Linsay Morris was the second son of Scottish pioneers John & Harriet Morris who pioneered the Duck Marsh Farm along the Old Paradise Road, before buying Highfield farm in High St, Sheffield. Upon his father’s death in 1911, John & wife Alice Morris took over Highfield farm and he purchased a Ford motor car. While the family were out driving in this car in 1912, their house burnt down and the only thing saved was Alice’s sewing machine. The Morris’ decided to sell the property and move to Rockhampton. Half Highfield property went to Alexander Cruikshank, who built the original house (now Kentish Council’ offices), the other half to Chas Lehman, later purchased by Ray & Kath Duff.

7th Motor Car: Reg #1127, Jun 1912 – Dr Victor Ratten of Sheffield. Our remarkable doctor continues his life-long habit of changing his vehicles every couple of years. This qualified him becoming a leading connoisseur of very expensive motor cars, to which he later added racehorses. In July 1913 Dr Ratten was called to a distressing accident at Beulah when David Steer’s horse fell while yarding some cattle and threw Steers over its head to the ground. The horse got up and bolted. Steers unable to extract his foot out of the horse’s stirrup, so he was dragged all-round the paddock. Fortunately, a very plucky Mrs Steers was able to stop the horse and call the doctor. Dr Ratten conveyed Steers with very serious injuries back to his hospital.

8th Motor Car: Aug 1912 – Dr Fred A Ferris of High St, Sheffield.
A year after graduating from Melbourne university medical school, young Fred Ferris arrived in Sheffield in Nov 1909 to establish a new medical practise. It was considered Dr Ratten was too busy and needed more competition. Young Ferris rented premises at 47 High St (next door to the Sheffield Bible Chapel) and in 1911 married Jane (Molly) Newman, a nurse he met in Melbourne. For the first 2½ years he had no car, but used a horse and cart. In March 1911 a serious collision on West Kentish Rd between the local bread cart and a motor car from Ulverstone left Sheffield baker Steven Fisk severely injured about the head and face. Conveyed to Fisk’s home, he was put under the care of Dr Ferris who lived nearby.
By Aug 1912 Dr Ferris purchased a 20 hp single-seater Hupmobile, the first car with hood attached. He bought it from Duncan Loane who upon delivering it taught him how to drive and try and compete with Ratten’s racer.
Mrs Tom Glover and her 17-year-old son George was driving their pony and trap from Barrington toward Sheffield. When near the cemetery they heard a motorcar approaching behind. To avoid frightening their pony, young George drove the trap well up the side of the bank. But just as Dr Ferris’ motor car passed, the trap overturned, throwing Mrs Glover and her son George down onto the road, where they received cuts and bruises. Because Dr Ferris’s motorcar had a hood, he didn’t see what had happened to the horse and cart. Mrs Glover picked herself up, dusted own her black frock, then walked into Sheffield to show Dr Ferris their cuts and bruises.
9th Motor Car: Reg #1420, Sep 1912 – Leonard Manning of Sheffield
Son of Robert & Sarah Manning old pioneers of the district, Leonard Manning married Hannah Clarke, dau of Thomas Clarke, owner of the drapery store in Sheffield in 1902. In 1911 they built Woodside on the Barrington Rd (later owned by Trevor Hughes) and following year purchased his hooded Hupmobile. After 1924 buying a second farm, Leonard Manning got caught in the Great Depression, lost both farms and ultimately moved to Launceston.

10th Motor Car: Reg #1447, Dec 1912, Joe Cocker of Lr Barrington.
Joshua Reynolds Cocker was 3rd son of David Cocker, one of the earliest entrepreneurs to settle on the Mersey River at Spreyton. In1907 Joe married Hannah Murray at Christ Church Launceston and bought her back to live at Northbury, Lower Barrington, the farm Joe was buying from his father. In Nov 1911 Joe Cocker was the first in the district to install a milking machine which was watched carefully by local farmers to see if it was armful for the cows. The following year in Dec 1912 he purchased the first car in Lower Barrington. It was one of two Enfield 12-14hp motor cars imported by Maurice Brumby when he opened his Crown Motor Garage in Stewart St, Devonport. The other Enfield Brumby kept for himself. In Mar 1913 both Enfield Cars were chosen to convey a party of five to inspect the Round Hill mine over Mt Claude. Brumby and Cocker were the drivers and their cars performed wonderfully.

Next 10 motor cars: (purchased 1912-1914) belonged to George Waterhouse, Barrington (Ford); George Williams, Wilmot (Standard); Harry Day, Sheffield; G. B Matthews Sheffield jeweller; Chas Jeffrey, Melrose (Ford); Dave Russell, Barrington (Hupmobile); Harry Rockliff, Barrington (Ford); Hugh P Smith, Spreyton, (Matchless); Geo Hoodless, Railton (Triumph); and Dr Victor Ratten, Sheffield (Fiat). Dr Ratten’s 4th car was one of most expensive cars imported into Australia to date. It was a stunning single seater 33hp Fiat chassis that arrived from Italy in May 1913. Finally fitted out, Dr Ratten registered it in Jan,1914, the same month he was fined for excessive speeding along Marine Terrace in Burnie. Five months later when WW1 broke out, Dr Ratten was Captain in the Tas Army Medical Corp. Within six days, he discharged all his patients from his Sheffield hospital, found a substitute doctor for his practise and reported for duty. Whether his substitute doctor or his wife Blanch Ratten got to drive his new powerful Fiat, we don’t know.