Oct 23, 2017
You might be aware that Port Arthur started off as a penal settlement during the convict era but what you may not know is that this penal station also saw the rise of industrial “manufactories” such as ship building, shoemaking, smithing, timber and brick making.
From flour mill and granary to a prison and hospital, a township community was born with new infrastructure including a post office, cricket club and lawn tennis club. It also gave rise to tourism, marketed as “see first-hand the ‘horrors’ of a penal station”.
The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) is proud that the Port Arthur, Coal Mines and Cascades Female Factory Historic Sites are among 11 historic places that together form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property, and which were inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 2010.
In December 2017, a much needed project to update the visitors centre will be completed. This project sees a new look cafeteria and bistro, and an updated interpretation and gallery space to present the amazing stories to over 340,000 visitors per year.
This site has seen many changes and is also the scene for many stories. Here are a couple of interesting ones.
Billy the Kangaroo
To escape from Port Arthur, convicts had to cross a narrow pass known as 'the Neck'. This was heavily guarded by ferocious dogs and stationed military personnel. A convict named Billy Hunt^ disguised himself as a kangaroo in the hope making it through 'the Neck'. The plan was working brilliantly until one of the troopers decided to use the kangaroo as target practice. Billy was then forced to reveal his true identity.
Margaret Dalziel^, a literate housemaid from Glasgow, arrived in Tasmania in 1851. She was transported for highway robbery involving a tin case and registered papers. She had two prior convictions, one for stealing a watch, the other for housebreaking. Her arrival led to more charges of misconduct and drunken behaviour resulting in numerous sentences of hard labour in the Female Factory. In December 1857, she finally appeared as an aid at the Impression Bay Probation Station where typhus fever-stricken Scottish immigrants from the Persian emigrant ship were quarantined. After about five weeks and ten deaths the station was closed. Margaret received her Ticket of Leave two days later, a fitting reward for her courageous service. After that, apart from the occasional ‘idle and disorderly’, Margaret remained out of trouble.
^Source: http://portarthur.org.au, http://www.convictcreations.com/history/escapes.htm