W for Watermen of Sorell

Thanks to Helen Brinsmead for writing this post for the A-Z challenge.

Before the causeway was built, settlers and visitors to the Sorell District had to travel overland via Bridgewater, Grass Tree Hill and Richmond, a full day’s ride. A quicker way was to catch a boat from Kangaroo Point (now Bellerive), or across the Pittwater from Sorell. A long carriage ride or journey on horseback, or a boat trip in a skiff were the options until a public meeting was called in March 1849 with the residents of Sorell for consideration of the building of a causeway across the Pittwater. The concept was agreed with, with most of the discussion concerning whether extra taxes would be levied to pay for it. We know now that the Sorell Causeway wasn’t opened until 1872, leaving the ferrymen many more years to earn a living.

1827 John Stacey is listed as a Ferryman in Sorell when Rev Garrard registered his son John’s birth.

Mr J Davidson, an established waterman with a route from Clarence Inn to Kangaroo Point, proudly advertised in June 1831 that he had obtained a new 30 foot boat expressly to be “one of the safest ferry boats on the Derwent” in any weather.

Mr Davidson and his ferry

I wonder if Samuel Pearson, my 4x Great Grandfather, was an employee of Mr Davidson, as he is listed as a Ferryman of Sorell in the Christening register of his daughter Jemima in April 1831.

It looks as thought there was a need for two ferry journey, to the Lower Pittwater, and then, from Midway Point to Sorell with the traveller moved by cart, as in 1835, a theft was reported by Mr David Price. He’d left his bag in one boat “as he was crossing to another” as he was travelling to Kangaroo Point. His bag was found in the possession of another traveller, who said he’d been so intoxicated he’d not noticed which bag he’d picked up.

William Billett (Bellette) is noted as a Ferryman of Sorell by Chaplain James Norman on the Christening of his son John in 1837. I note that the same page of the Register has others listed as Boat Builder and Mariner. Clearly, Ferryman is acknowledged as an occupation in it’s own maritime field. I note that Samuel Pearson is one such Mariner listed, with his daughters Diane and Maria (my 3xGGmother) and son Richard being christened that year. Does this mean that he has become skilled enough or been employed on whaling ships or routes that take one out of the Derwent?

Unruly or drunk passengers were also a danger in crossing, along with the weather. In July 1838, a drunken passenger refused to let go of the sail when a squall rose. The boat with four passengers and cargo capsized. All were rescued by nearby boats. Unfortunately the waterman is not named. I wonder if it were William or John?

In 1840, Ferry proprietors and masters are named as Mr Spode and Mr Gunn in an article noting the there were a shortage of ‘proper hands in the boats’, leading most travellers to continue overland to cross at Risdon. There was a call to change the law regarding to which activities convict servants could be assigned, as it was currently illegal to use assigned servants in the operation of the ferries at Kangaroo Point, whereas Mr Dobson at Risdon, could.

Being ferried across the Derwent could not be assumed to be without risk. In November 1864, a Waterman named Carter was ferrying Mr Nicholls, when a squall capsized the boat: both were rescued.

The O’May family of Bellerive introduced the first steam ferry, the Surprise in 1871, after eight years running a sail boat ferry service.

By 1888, the ferryboat was more likely to be a steamer than a sail boat. The O’May family were now running the Taranna, the Minx and the Pearl, while the Kangaroo had a route from Bellerive to the city. All steamers were busy on the day of the eighth annual Regatta at Bellerive on Sunday 15 April.

PH30-1-2101 Steam ferry Kangaroo

V for Violet Vimpany

Violet Emma Alomes was born 15 April 1886 to Walter Alomes and Emma Jane Parker at Forcett. She had 7 other siblings.

According to her daughter in 1975, her mother collected tin foil and used stamps as a child so she could help others through the Dr Barnardo’s homes in London. During the wars her mother knitted scarves and donated food parcels.

At age 23, Violet married Amos Vimpany at St David’s Cathedral.

Vimpany Alomes marriage

In the late 1920’s, Violet attended Hobart Technical College where she studied art under the wing of Lucien Dechaineaux. In the late 1930’s she studied under Max Meldrum in Melbourne.

In 1934, one of Violet’s paintings Auriculas was shown at the Women Painters exhibition in Sydney. She used oils and watercolours as well as etching in her career. Violet exhibited in New York in 1939 at the International Women: Painter, Sculptors, Gravers exhibition.

Violet was on the council for the Art Society of Tasmania and would often present their report at the National Council of Women of Tasmania annual meetings.

In 1938, Violet was involved in a contempt of court case with the Lord Mayor (J Soundy) and Mrs Olive Calvert.

Violet shared a studio with Florence Rodway, Mildred Lovatt and Edith Holmes who were also exhibitors as many Art Society events.

In 1940, Mrs A Vimpany was honoured at the National Council of Women meeting. She was a definite champion of women’s rights and a philanthropist and was a member of many societies in Tasmania.

In The Mercury in Margot’s Notebook section, there is a great description of clothing worn by Violet.


In 1944, at the Art Society’s 60th anniversary, Violet exhibited a portrait.

Her husband Amos, a well known stonemason, passed in 1945 leaving many memorials incomplete. Violet decided she would need to learn the skills and techniques so she could finish his work.

At the 1947 Art Society exhibition, held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art gallery, there were few portraits hung, but Violet had one she had painted of “Jenny”, the librarian of the Art Society.

To find out more about Violet’s life, read this article written by her daughter Gwen which was published in The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine in 1975.

Violet passed on 2 March 1979 and is buried in the cemetery at Forcett.


U for Umbrella Maker

Thanks to Jo Hopkins for writing this post for the A-Z challenge.

UMBRELLA MAKER is not a trade that springs readily to mind, however that is the occupation that James Jones gave when he was committed to trial in London in 1837.

James Jones was born in 1817 in Shoreditch London. On 27 June 1837, James approached John Love in the street and demanded money, making him a ROBBER.1

He was sentenced to transportation for twenty-one years and began his time as a CONVICT. He was transported on the Moffatt and arrived in Hobart on 1 April 1838. His convict record  has umbrella maker crossed out and the comment LABOURER inserted.2

James Jones was allocated to the New Norfolk area to labour in a WORK GANG, then after his probationary period he was assigned to Robert Thorne of Pitt Water. Thorne was the son of Samuel Thorne, a marine who arrived in Hobart Town in 1804.

As an ASSIGNEE Jones was required to undertake any tasks allotted by his master, and Thorne had varied business interests – coastal shipping, farms, a ferry, the Rose and Crown Inn. Thorne had a grain store on the foreshore in Lewisham and probably operated a passenger ferry from there across to 5 Mile Beach (The middle of the three ferries). James Jones is likely to have been a FERRYMAN who rowed across the channel.

James Jones received a Ticket of Leave on 25 December 1842 and married Ann Kennedy in 1843. On the birth registrations of their three children (William 1844, Harriet 1845 and James 1848), he was described as a MARINER. In 1847 he attained a Conditional Pardon.

By 1848, James Jones had acquired and was the LICENCEE of the Victoria Inn in Lewisham. (The building was extensively remodelled for a century then demolished around 1968. The Lewisham Tavern was built on the site.) 3

NS1553-1-420 Lewisham House

Ann Jones died in 1857, and James remarried to Charlotte Stacey, daughter of John Stacey and Hannah Stacey (Green).  The 1858 marriage record lists him as a LICENCED VICTUALLER. Their son Charles and their eight daughters were born in Lewisham between 1859 and 1875.

For many years James was a great SUPPORTER of the local area. Newspaper reports (found through Trove) see him on organising committees for race meetings held at Forcett and for regattas at Lewisham. The Victoria Inn was often the venue for meetings and celebrations.

In 1865 James Jones, SHIP OWNER, together with Robert Harrod launch the Lewisham Belle, a 55-foot schooner to trade between Sorell, Lewisham, the Tasman Peninsula and Hobart. Unfortunately, the new and uninsured boat sinks off Taroona
with the loss of three crew and the cargo of wheat.

James Jones continued to live in the Lewisham area where he had been assigned in 1839. By the time of his death, he was a LANDHOLDER owning 169 acres of land around the area. Much of the property was farmland – around Boathouse Hill and the hill behind and including the Rose and Crown Inn (no longer licenced). His estate included the Victoria Inn and the parcel of land immediately to the north of the inn. This block, perhaps mistakenly sold by the government, contained the local Watch House, making James a GAOL OWNER.

  1. Digital panopticon The Digital Panopticon James Jones b. 1817, Life Archive ID obpdef2-1634-18370703 (https://www.digitalpanopticon.org/life?id=obpdef2-1634-18370703). Version 1.2.1, consulted 20th April 2022.
  2. https://stors.tas.gov.au/CON27-1-7P172#  Founders and Survivors Record ID fasai37630
  3. Victoria Inn. AA Rollings photo NS1553-1-420