People of note included in this section are: Dr James Ross, Janet McTavish, The Cato Family, Alexander Strathern, Dr Harry Benjafield, Fordham and Giblin.
Dr James Ross
In the early 1830s, Dr James Ross was granted all the land comprising Knocklofty and the top of today’s Mount Stuart. The estate, which he named ‘Paraclete’, covered 430 acres, and was said to extend from the Female Prison to Kangaroo Bottom (Lenah Valley today).
Ross graduated as a Doctor of Laws from Aberdeen University, then accepted a position as superintendent of a plantation on Grenada, but soon returned to England and became a schoolmaster. In 1822 he decided to emigrate to Van Diemen’s Land and arrived per the Regalia on 30.12.1822. He received a land grant of one thousand acres on the Shannon river near Bothwell. He suffered serious stock losses and so removed to Hobart. At the Lieutenant-Governor’s request Ross became editor of the Gazette, then, when this paper became purely official, left to establish the Hobart Town Courier. He was editor of this paper until 1837. Ross also published the Hobart Town Almanack from 1829 to 1837.
Ross was married to Susannah (née Smith). They had thirteen children born between 1820 and 1836. James Ross died on his Richmond property in 1838. His widow, Susannah, remarried to Robert Stewart, barrister-at-law. She died in 1871 in her seventy-fifth year.
McTavish Avenue is the only area in the Mount Stuart district which carries the name of the person to whom the original land grant was made, and where the boundaries of the grant are clearly evident.
Mrs Janet McTavish arrived in September 1824 on the ‘Portland’, from Leith (the port of Edinburgh), accompanied on the voyage by her daughter and son-in-law and their several children, and travelling steerage. Her son-in-law, Thomas Young, established one of the first law firms in Hobart Town.
She immediately placed the following advertisement in the Hobart Town Gazette:
“Mrs McTavish, Passenger by the Australia Company’s Ship Portland, respectfully acquaints the inhabitants of Hobart Town and the Country, that she will continue her practice of a Midwife in this place. Mrs McTavish holds a Diploma from Dr Thatcher, one of the most eminent lecturers on Midwifery in the City of Edinburgh; and to those who may honour her with their Patronage, ample Testimonials will be shown as to Character etc. In particular, she begs leave to refer the Public to the private testimonial below, which she obtained from Dr Thatcher upon leaving Edinburgh, and she confidently hopes to merit the same opinion which is herein expressed, from all those who may patronize her. Mrs McTavish at present resides in the house of Mr Morrison, Watch-maker, Elizabeth Street, where she will at times be found. Mrs McTavish will be happy to wait on any Lady after Delivery, whose Recovery requires her Attendance. Hobart Town, Sept 16th 1824.
(A glowing testimonial follows, signed by John Thatcher MD, Member of the Royal College of Physicians, Lecturer on Midwifery and the Diseases of Women and Children, and dated Edinburgh March 20 1824).
Janet McTavish was evidently successful in her practice. She built a substantial residence, ‘Rosebank’, which contained rooms for her midwife practice, in what is now McTavish Avenue, The census index for 1837 records her as owner of a household which included servants Sophia Moses, Jane McCarty, and two male convicts. ‘Rosebank’ was eventually demolished and the present flats and units built on the site.
The Cato Family
The Mount Stuart members of the Cato family are credited with helping to establish the Tasmanian apple industry.
Joseph Cato, senior, arrived in Hobart Town in 1832 with his wife and family, bringing with him a considerable collection of shrubs and plants. He purchased an acreage in New Town, where he established his plant collection, and where he built a brick house, Kemble, moving in in 1834. In the interim the family had lived in Elizabeth Street, and Joseph had worked as officer in charge of Government stores in the Commissariat Department, a position which he left in 1834 in order to give full attention to his orchard and nursery.
Joseph’s eldest son, William, succeeded his father and took over the running of Kemble. His second and third sons, Joseph (junior) and Cornelius, after a visit to the Victorian gold fields, purchased the Paraclete property and began the family association with Mount Stuart. Cornelius died soon after taking over the Paraclete property, but Joseph (junior) continued, giving special attention to the propagation of new varieties of apples. He developed a number of successful varieties, including the Crofton, formerly known as Cato’s seedling. The youngest son, Samuel, showed a preference for office work. For many years he was bookkeeper in Andrew Mather’s and Co.’s establishment, and later became a clerk with the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Co., and its successor, the Union Steam Ship Co.
Joseph (junior), of Paraclete, had a family of four sons and three daughters. One son, Arthur Hilmer Cato, continued to run the Paraclete property. Another son, Samuel Joseph Cato, lived on an orchard property, Lenaker, on the downhill side of Mount Stuart Road. The third son established a fruit growing property at Woodbridge. The fourth son moved to Launceston.
In 1891 both Samuel Joseph Cato and Arthur Hilmer Cato were elected trustees of the newly created Mount Stuart Town Board. Samuel Joseph Cato became Chairman of the Board, and for a number of years Board meetings were held at his property, Lenaker, where the essential functions of a town council were developed and applied to Mount Stuart under their guidance.
By 1932, the living descendants of Joseph Cato, senior, numbered 13 grandchildren, 69 great-grandchildren, and 84 great-great-grandchildren!
To complete the Cato story, Joseph Cato (senior) also had an elder brother, William, who had arrived in Western Australia in 1829, but had decided to move to Hobart Town, arriving in 1831. He was appointed deputy-governor of the Cascade Penitentiary, and his wife was matron. Later they lived at Richmond, and eventually moved to Victoria. F. J. Cato, at one time head of the firm Moran and Cato Pty Ltd, was a grandson of William Cato.
Alexander Strathern was born in Scotland in a village called Eskdalemuir in 1845. He was a graduate of Glasgow University, and was English and Scottish long jump and high jump champion. (22 feet and 5′-11″ respectively).
Strathern came to Tasmania in 1878. What brought him here is unknown, nor do records show what qualifications he gained at University. He was said to have lived a retired life for several years. He built the fine stone house “Eskdalemuir” in Muir Court, according to one record: “Upwards so that he could observe the stars”. In those days, the house was on some nine acres of land.
Tragedy struck his life on Mount Stuart. He had become engaged to a Miss Holmes, but before their marriage she met with a serious accident which left her incapacitated. As a consequence, she called off their engagement. She required constant attention for the rest of her life, which was provided by her sister. Alexander invited the two sisters to share his home, and after his death in 1913 they continued to live on at Eskdalemuir for a number of years, (after which the property was owned by Victor Hooper, who operated a dairy on the site).
When the Town of Mount Stuart was gazetted in 1891, Strathern was elected a founder Board Member, and described himself in the correspondence of the Mount Stuart Town Board as “Secretary and Surveyor”. There is no record, however, of anyone of that name in the lists of recognised surveyors. If Strathern had an interest, or qualifications, in astronomy it would not have been difficult for him to master all the skills of a surveyor of that time.
Around 1906 the Town of Mount Stuart was absorbed into Hobart, and Strathern became Municipal Clerk of New Town for the remaining seven years of his life, collapsing and dying one Monday morning on a Lenah Valley tram while on his way to work. It is recorded that by then he had become an authority on municipal law.
Dr. Harry Benjafield
Doctor Benjafield was born in 1845 in Wiltshire, graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University, and arrived in Tasmania in 1873. He built the fine stone house in Elizabeth Street on the city side of the junction with Lyndhurst Avenue, originally called ‘The Willows’, then ‘Mimosa’, and now ‘QAI House’. In those days it was on several acres of land.
Dr Benjafield travelled over much of southern Tasmania during his years as a medical practitioner, claiming never to refuse a call-out, and able to average 14 miles per hour with two good horses and a light carriage. On occasion he completed his journey by boat. He was active in municipal affairs, and as a member of the Mount Stuart Town Board, he actively promoted health improvement measures on Mount Stuart by stressing the need for pure drinking water, the isolation of people with infectious diseases, proper disposal of sewage and run off from pig styes and stables, and so on.
Dr Benjafield was fond of the outdoor life, and bought a farm at Moonah in the area which later became the Stanley Titan Factory. Initially, as a hobby, he ran a herd of 100 dairy cattle, and claimed to revolutionise milk supply in Hobart. Labour, however, was a problem, so he turned to fruit growing (about which he claimed to know nothing to start with). He planted apples, apricots, plums and peaches, but eventually concentrated on pears: “Because others were not”. He imported from France 200 young trees of 30 varieties, concentrating on long keeping varieties. He obtained additional land, including much of the Benjafield Terrace area, and planted pear orchards. He was an early pioneer of cool stores, and a son-in-law became manager of a cool store in Moonah. Pears were sent to London, and reached prices at Covent Garden as high as one shilling each. He won a Royal Horticultural Society of England medal in 1906, and his pears were on the dining table at the coronation of a king.
In addition to orcharding, Dr Benjafield for a while owned a coal mine on his Mount Stuart property, (described in the section on coal mines). Dr Benjafield retired from his medical practice in 1905, moving to live on his Moonah property, ‘Albert Park’. His house was sold to a Mr Frank Bond. Today, there are still reminders of Dr Benjafield’s pear growing hobby. One can find locally grown pears carrying a French name. There are still one or two old pear trees on Mount Stuart which might well have been planted under Dr Benjafield’s gaze. Dr Harry Benjafield died in 1917.
Fordham was the owner of an estate at the top of Mellifont Street comprising a pleasant six room house on seven acres. The estate was sold for subdivisional purposes in 1922.
The Giblin family is extensive. Several achieved notable distinction (which of them gave their name to Giblin Street is unknown). There is a record of a Robert Wilkins Giblin arriving in 1827, and taking over the orphan school from the Rev R Claiburne.
William Robert Giblin (1840-1887), premier and judge, was born in Hobart Town, son of William Giblin, clerk of the registrar of deeds and deacon in the Congregational Church, and his wife Marion, née Falkiner. He started work at 13 for the legal firm of Allport & Roberts. He was admitted to the Bar in 1864 and formed a legal firm in partnership with John Dobson. In 1865 he married Emily Jean, daughter of John Perkins.
He was elected to the House of Assembly in 1869, eventually becoming Premier. In 1883 he represented Tasmania at the Australasian Convention which led to formation of the Federal Council. In 1885 he was appointed puisne judge of the Supreme Court. As acting chief justice he was administrator of the government in October-November 1886, the first native born Tasmanian to hold this office. He died in January 1887 and was survived by his wife, four sons and three daughters.
Lyndhurst Falkiner Giblin was the second son of William and Emily, and a truly remarkable man. He was educated at Hutchins, then at University College in London and graduated from Cambridge University in mathematics in 1893 and science in 1896. While at Cambridge he played rugby for England and for his college, Kings, and also rowed in the Kings eight.
He won the Military Cross in France during the First World War, became Tasmanian Government Statistician in 1919, and was appointed to a Chair of Economics at Melbourne University in 1927. He was a founding member of the Grants Commission and in 1935 was appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board. During World War Two he was Chairman of the Economic and Financial Committee advising the Federal Government on ways to divert resources to war purposes with minimum disturbance to the economy.