Over these last two years of this huge exploration project, Surveyor-General Robert Power’s animosity towards Kentish had deepened, especially after Kentish began to tell him he could do a better job as the Surveyor-General than Power. Power wanted him immediately dismissed, but Governor Sir Eardley-Wilmot took Kentish’s side and insisted that he be allowed to complete his assignment. Sir Eardley Wilmot had warmed to Kentish as both men were having similar problems with various government departments. Besides the Governor agreed with Kentish’s views on capital punishment, having voted for its abolition previously when he was a member of the British Parliament in London.
In view of the strained relationship between the Surveyor General and Kentish, in January 1844 Power sent senior surveyor James E Calder to inspect Kentish’s pegged route through the bush. Shortly after Calder’s arrived Kentish gave him a copy of his poems and later asked how he like them. Calder replied: “Do you think I would waste my time reading that dam rubbish” Despite this on 3 April 1844, Calder sent in a very favorable report of Kentish’s route and fourteen years later when he became Surveyor-General was mainly responsible for attaching Kentish’s name to the open Plains.
Mersey River to Forth Rivers (Spring 1844/Autumn 1845)
In April 1844 Captain Matthew Forster (Controller–General of convicts) arrived at the Mersey River Crossing (later Kimberley) to select the site for a new Probation Station that would house 200 convicts. These convicts were needed to build the bridge across the Mersey River and widening Kentish’s new route to the West to allow for carts and wagons. Forster chose a location on the east bank of the Mersey River, between Kentish’s surveyed road and the hot springs.
The barracks were built between spring 1844 and autumn 1845 by convicts from Deloraine. Then they were joined by some 130 experienced bridge building convicts who were marched there from the Perth Probation Station. Traces of the old wooden Probation Station at Kimberley were still clearly visible for well over a century later, but the massive re-alinement of the main road to Railton since them seems to have destroyed them.
As a civil engineer it was also Kentish’s duty to design the type of bridge to cross over the Mersey River. But for nearly a week floods prevented crossing over it. Kentish used this time to shape a small iron spike or blade which pulled behind a horse would act like a miniature plough and open a small furrow along the centre of his proposed road. He set men to do this from the Mersey River back to Deloraine to prevent any early settlers removing or repositioning his pegs across the open plains. Writing in June 1844 Kentish acknowledges that if it hadn’t been for the intervention of the Governor Eardley Wilmot,
“he would have been deprived of the privilege of accomplishing a public work of great difficulty and importance… having surmounted all the obstacles which had baffled the Company for 19 or 20 years and were deemed physically impossible.”
By October 1844 Lukin Boyes’ convicts had completed clearing a bridle track from Emu Bay to the Forth River, so they crossed this river and continued hacking and hewing their way following Kentish’s marked line up through the dense Barrington bush. As the dry summer weather arrived, Kentish chose to use an old surveyor’s ploy. He burnt the bush with fire, which greatly helped both parties. However, during those same summer months, Kentish was troubled with internal haemorrhoids and needed to go to Launceston and seek medical attention. Likewise, Lukin Boyes became unwell and visited the VDL Co doctor at Emu Bay.
Kentish’s Final Report on his Road – March 1845
After nearly three years work, Kentish’s surveying work was complete, although his route was far from being formed into a road useable by carts and wagons. On 11 March 1845 Kentish sent in his final report, a voluminous document, to both Surveyor General Power and His Excellency Governor Eardley-Wilmot. Much to the amazement of many, Kentish had found a far superior route to Emu Bay than the original Great Western Road that passed behind Mount Roland. Incredibly Kentish had reduced its length from 101 miles to 61 miles, its maximum altitude from 2709 feet to 837 feet, and the travelling time from about one week to two days. Kentish also calculated that to draw a one-ton weight from Deloraine to Emu Bay supposing the surface was reasonably smooth, along the old road it took 16 bullocks or horses 18 days equaling 288 horse-power; but on his new road it would take 10 bullocks or horses 7 days equaling 70 horse-power.
He had also discovered two new rivers – the Wilmot and Gawler. Kentish named the first river after his new friend Governor Eardley-Wilmot and the second after his old friend Governor George Gawler of South Australia. To celebrate the completion of his task which he considered was an ‘unexpectedly great success’, on 26 March 1845 Kentish composed a 70 line poem (without verses) which he would say “was written in my blanket tent, on the Plains, which Field Bros called after me, as their discoverer, the last night of my sleeping in the bush before returning to head-quarters.
His poem relates to the triumph of his success when others said it couldn’t be done and tells of the jealousy and criticism he endued from “fretful pigmies with wooden heads”. He concludes with: “There stands one, right noble is his name …Manicule (= the name Kentish gives to himself as the one who points the way) returns from the Bush.”
During the following months, the convicts continued to widen Kentish’s bridle track, so carts and wagons could use it. But in August 1845 suddenly all free convict labor provided under the Probation System was suspended. As a result, all work to this new road to the North West was stopped and the completion of Kentish’s new inland route was completely abandoned. This also included the bridge across the Mersey River. Ironically, the only part of Kentish’s entire route to Emu Bay that was formed into a useable road was the section from Mersey River up through Sheffield and half way down to Lower Barrington. Our modern road from Sheffield to Devonport follows Kentish’s original track out as far as the turn off to Dalwood Road, Nook. It leaves his surveyed road on the next corner where the highway turns sharply to the west in front of the Casa Blanc Country Retreat, 1589 Sheffield Road. Kentish’s route continued directly north in a straight line to the township of Lower Barrington, then out along the road to the Paloona Dam. Surprisingly, the first section coming up from the Mersey River to Sheffield is still called ‘the Bridle Track’ by locals today.
Kentish was a competent, meticulous surveyor and survivor, but obviously suffered from what is now known as ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ which others found obnoxious and very offensive. It compelled him to act in arrogant and boastful manner, always trumpeting his own self-importance and abilities while at the same time looking with anger and contempt on all other people whom he perceived to be beneath him. Observe this attitude in Kentish’s own assessment of his exploration work written in his report dated August 1845:
‘I have been employed in this severe duty during the whole of three winters, since March 1843, without a single day’s intermission of relaxation or rest and I confidently rely on the results of my labours affording satisfaction.…My work is perhaps unpreceded in the annals of engineering…a more arduous undertaking of the kind was never accomplished with greater success by mortal man, by surveyor or engineer, by official or amateur explorer, both in and out of the British Dominions, or any part of the world.’
Kentish believed he would now gain a permanent position within the Survey Department and be rewarded with a grant of land. Instead as soon as he could, Survey-General Power dismissed him outright without even reimbursing him for out-of-pocket expenses for tools and supplies that Kentish had paid for with his own money. Sir Eardley-Wilmot, who didn’t like Power, ordered an investigation in Kentish’s dismissal, then intervened to give Kentish a new surveying contract in Launceston. As a result of this new assignment the conflict between the conceited surveyor and his contentious circle of civil and government officials escalated almost to breaking point for Kentish and his family.