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The Devonport Times

Stories from the October 2000 edition





By noted historian, Faye Gardam
Those people who are conscious of the importance of Devonport's heritage, are very appreciative of the great job being done by Atika Rea in restoring Malunnah to its former glory. For several months she has laboured, both physically and financially, to restore Malunnah and, on completion of the work, she plans to share the house with the local community.
William Aikenhead, Chairman of the Devonport Town Board, built Malunnah in1888.His family established the Examiner newspaper in Launceston. He was an amateur photographer and keen gardener and laid out the extensive gardens, which originally extended to Victoria Parade.
At the time of its construction, it was undoubtedly one of the finest houses outside of Launceston and Hobart and attracted much attention, something it has continued to do up to the present time.
An Aikenhead daughter was a keen horsewoman and the coach house and stables at the rear of Malunnah were apparently well used.
In 1916 the property was purchased by Mrs Mary Lane, proprietor of the then Grand Hotel on the corner of Best and Rooke Streets. Mrs Lane made extensions to Malunnah in 1923, almost doubling the housešsoriginal size. She was an indomitable lady.
Her husband died prematurely while they were managing an Inn at Deloraine. She moved her young family of six to Devonport and ran the Palace Hotel for a few years before embarking ­ against all advice ­ on building the Grand Hotel.
In due course the family erected the Majestic Theatre alongside the Rooke Street boundary of the hotel. One of Mrs Lane's sons was a good musician and he established a small orchestra, which provided music in the Theatre.
The Grand Hotel remained in the Lane family until 1968, when it was demolished after unsuccessful attempts had been made to find a purchaser. Meanwhile the family continued to own and love Malunnah and it housed several generations of Lanes, until the death of Miss Frances Lane on Anzac Day this year.
She had lived her lifetime in the house, which was a treasure trove of family history.
Malunnah was well known for having housed the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester during their long holiday in Devonport in 1946.They enjoyed walking along Victoria Parade and refused to have a section of the Mersey Bluff cordoned off to provide privacy for their two sons.
In more recent years, one of the Princes ­ now the Duke of Gloucester ­ brought his wife and children back to Devonport on a private visit to Malunnah and the Bluff, to show them where he had enjoyed some of his childhood.
It is sad that financial restraints caused some of the gardens to be sacrificed for the Malunnah Close subdivision. But the loving care that the grand old house is now receiving will ensure its survival for a good many more years to come.

Devonport's controversial Brickworks monument, on the Mersey River foreshore, is to be dismantled. However, those tourists ­ and Devonport residents ­ who paid to write their names on the bricks in the monument forecourt, can rest easy.
Devonport City Council has decided the bricks will be retained and used on some other yet-to-be-determined project.
The Brickworks, the brainchild of the then Promotions Officer, Claire Cooper, was constructed in March 1985 by bricklayer, Max Dick.
Although the wall appears unfinished, Max said that was the original plan with the bricks actually laid in a manner, which made the structure appear unfinished.
Tourists and local residents were invited to buy a "green" brick, write their name on it and then have it fired by Frank Zolatti at his Dulverton brickworks.
Nearly 850 bricks were purchased and fired and laid on the round in front of the wall ­ some on their side, others face up.
The monument has attracted a great deal of interest, although the purpose of its construction is now shrouded in history.
The bricks, when removed, will be stored by Council until a decision regarding its future is made.
Also to be removed is the painting of a ship near the path from Formby Rd to the trans-Mersey ferry.This was originally an exhibit loaned by the Devonport Gallery to promote one of its exhibitions.

He had been off the Devonport sporting scene for about 12 years, but the very large attendance at his recent funeral was proof that the late Geoff Fairbrother was far from forgotten.
Christened by some of his former sports mates "The Gentleman Sportsman", Geoff ­ or Wally, as all the Fairbrothers seemed to be called  ­ succumbed to the dreaded Huntington's disease after long years of incapacitation. The "gentleman" tag was earned because of his concern for team-mates and opponents alike.
In his hey day he was a big man, built on the lines of a Ray Gabelich or Brian Taylor, who had the ability to run though an opponent. But he preferred to go around them ­ and not through any want of courage, of which he was blessed with an abundance. In fact it was that courage that sustained him for so long after he was diagnosed with the disease.
He played more than 200 games of football and, although he showed great promise as a youngster he never really attained great heights.
A tremendously keen runner he was coached by one of the doyens of the sport, Reg Bakes, and, according to other members of the Bakes' stable, he was always one of the first on the track. The highlight of his career was his victory in the Tasmanian 1000s 1600 metres Consolation at Devonport in 1953 and his tremendous determination is evident from the accompanying photograph.
A welder by trade, Geoff was described by his first employer, Garry Green, has a top worker and a most reliable employee. Later he was employed by Finlayson Brothers and during that time became part of the city's history when he welded together the controversial art work, "Vortex", designed by Robertson Swann of "The Yellow Peril" fame. Vortex is now permanently placed near the Maritime Museum off Victoria
Despite being hampered by his illness, Geoff was able to travel extensively throughout Europe, England and the United States.
His driving ambition had been to be able to see the 2000 Olympic Games, but sadly it was not to be. Huntington's Disease has been a curse on the Fairbrother family and his mother, who never missed a day visiting her son in Meercroft over the past five years, has now lost her husband and three sons to the disease.
While living in Queensland, Geoff played an active role in the promotion of Huntington's Disease Awareness week and freely told his story to a newspaper in the hope it would help others. As one of his former running mates said: "You would be battling to find anyone who knew Geoff who did not claim him as a friend. "If he had an enemy I would be extremely surprised."

When a transport driver complains of working a 16 hour day, he gets little or no sympathy from his fellow drivers for whom such days are fairly common. But when that driver is a cerebral palsy sufferer who had been told from birth that he would never be able to get off his back and that walking was out of the question the long hours in a truck take on a new meaning.
That Devonport's Ron Harvey was able to retain the IPEC agency here for 13 years, undertaking work that would deter even the strongest of us, is almost unbelievable. And now, while his age (70) and failing health have finally caught up with him, he still has that positive, humour-filled approach to life that enabled him to be a prominent part of the Devonport community for so long.
Ron recently recalled some of the extraordinary experiences of his years in the trucking industry. It was nothing for him to start work at 7.00 am ­ usually to deliver spare parts to firms such as Sullivan Motors before their doors opened at 8.00 am ­ and not finish until he dragged his tired body home for his evening meal sometimes as late as 10.00 pm. 
In fact, on one occasion, he had just started his evening meal after a 12 hour shift, during which he made some 400 deliveries, when IPEC's new boss from the mainland, rang to ask if he could possibly deliver something which had been promised that morning. "Could I finish my meal first?" asked Ron." Sure but it must go now because we promised it today." So Ron gulped down his meal and went to pick up the delivery from the wharf where it had been off loaded from the Princess of Tasmania. The item turned out to be a huge fan, which had to be crow barred onto his truck.
And the destination? Renison Bell on the West Coast. Uncomplaining (as usual) Ron arrived back home in time to take the morning paper into his wife, Barbara, before catching a couple of hours "kip", then back into the fray.
An extraordinarily loyal and reliable servant of the company, Ron almost lost his positive attitude when, after 13 years, he was told his services were no longer required. He had been on what, today, we would have called stress leave. A strike in Melbourne had resulted in a huge build up of a back log of orders and Ron did as many as four trips a day to Launceston to clear it.
His doctor decided he needed time off. But while he was off he had o pay someone to do his work so he was well out of pocket. Back at work ­ but still far from well - his new-to-Tasmania boss decided he had to deliver parcels to Pulp (at Wesley Vale) and Goliath (at Railton) within half an hour. When he pointed out he could not possibly manage it, he was told his services were no longer required. No notice! No payout! Nothing! Barbara said Ron was devastated and, as transport was the only work he really knew, he was left with virtually no future.
"But, in the way he always does, he snapped out of his depression and took odds jobs such as carting rubbish, mowing lawns and, of course, keeping his vegetable garden up to the mark, " she said." Somehow we got through, but much lesser men would have been broken, " said
an obviously proud Barbara.
"He has always had a great attitude and I wouldn't have him any other way." And illustrating just how wonderful is that attitude was the story Ron tells of when he pulled up outside a hotel in St Mary's to fix his tail light. Seeing him stagger, because of his disability, two policemen were ready to arrest him for being drunk in charge of the vehicle. You and I might have been hurt, but Ron merely laughed as he explained the
problem and carried on his way.
A remarkable man indeed.

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