I was going to have posted this up last weekend but I came down with a virus that knocked me around a bit. Better now so getting onto it. I mentioned in the last post that my friend, Kate and I sometimes go to the Glenorchy markets. It is a real mish-mash of items but they have pretty good coffee and excellent doughnuts.
We decided to get stuck into the doughnuts right away to give us sustenance for walking around and searching through all the junk this place offers for some possible treasures. I brought Penguin and Penguin brought along his American friend, Red Squirrel. I gave the responsibility for Red to Kate. I know she hasn’t lost her ability to recreate childhood anymore than I have so it was a good match.
While sitting at a table at the little kiosk in this big warehouse, her eye wandered to a table of second hand books. She suddenly said, “I see a book I need to get.” Once we finished our doughnuts we walked over to the table and I saw the large book she was talking about, Tickleberry Tales. I had not heard of it before but it turns out it is a history of the Hydro Electric Project started in Tasmania several decades ago.
In 1914, the State Government set up the Hydro-Electric Department (changed to the Hydro-Electric Commission in 1929) to complete the first HEC power station, the Waddamana Hydro-Electric Power Station. Prior to that two private hydro-electric stations had been opened the Launceston City Council‘s Duck Reach Power Station, opened 1895 on the South Esk River (it was one of the first hydro-electric power stations in the southern hemisphere. Reefton in New Zealand is the first municipal hydro-station, beginning operations in 1888) and the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company‘s Lake Margaret Power Station, opened in 1914. Both these power stations were taken over by the HEC and closed in 1955 and 2006 respectively
Following the Second World War in the 1940s and early 1950s, many migrants came to Tasmania to work for the HEC with construction of dams and sub-stations. This was similar to the Snowy Mountains Scheme in New South Wales and similar effects in bringing in a significant number of people into the local community enriching the social fabric and culture of each state. Most constructions in this era were concentrated in the centre of the island.
As the choice of rivers and catchments in the central highlands were exhausted, the planners and engineers began serious surveying of the rivers of the west and south west regions of the state. The long term vision of those within the HEC and the politicians in support of the process, was for continued utilisation of all of the state’s water resources.
As a consequence of such a vision, the politicians and HEC bureaucrats were able to create the upper Gordon river power development schemes despite worldwide dismay at the loss of the original Lake Pedder. (Lake Pedder is a lake that has a bottom of pink quartz on the bottom and there are still calls to bring the lake back to its original glory) The hydro-industrialisation of Tasmania was seen as paramount above all, and the complaints from outsiders were treated with disdain. (When the politicians approved the Gordon River to be dammed for inclusion in this scheme the people of Tasmania held enormous protests led by several very angry environmentalists, including ex-Senator Bob Brown and what is now know as the Greens Party had its beginnings. But that is another story entirely. I might add the environmentalists won and the river was not dammed.)
There is much more history to this large project and if you’re interested in more information just google Hydro-Electric Commission Tasmania.
Now the Hydro published a book about much more history of this project and the community of people who were the workers. This also included their families and communities. My friend, Kate, grew up in Wyatinah, Tasmania, deep into the Derwent Valley. Her husband, Mark also grew up in the same community and was two years ahead of her in school. Mark’s family is Stansbie. He comes from a large family of children and he and Kate were in primary school together.
As we looked through the book, Tickleberry Tales, she showed me photos that had been taken in their small community back in the 1970’s. Mark’s family members and Kate were featured in them. We started talking to the bookseller at the market about this book and I told her Kate is featured in the book. We thought the price she had on this book was a bit high. But before we discussed buying the book, she offered us a significant discount because she thought Kate should have it for her children to keep.
Kate’s husband’s family: The Stansbies
We pooled our money together and given the discount Kate took the book home. Her children were very happy to accept it.
That experience really lifted our spirits and we continued to walk around the rest of the market. Penguin and Red had fun, Kate and I had fun and we left two hours later with several very inexpensive plants we picked up for our gardens. I think this was a very successful Weekend Wander full of Serendipity.
I have scattered a few photos on the page. I hope you enjoy this little bit of Tasmanian history and the Penguin was glad to get home and onto the page again.