Stories from the October 2000 edition
PART OF OUR HISTORY
TO RON'S COURAGE
PART OF OUR HISTORY
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
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
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
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
THE GENTLEMAN SPORTSMAN
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
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
SALUTE TO RON'S COURAGE
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
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.