A quick trip to Hobart

Since writing about the Rajah quilt (My Name is Lizzie Flynn, due out early 2015) I have been keen to revisit Hobart, to visit Cascades Female Factory (and I also had some vague story ideas centred around Pt Arthur). This past week I had my chance. My folks were staying in Hobart for a week and had a spare room. We had a lovely few days together.


 It’s a tough place to visit, but not when compared with what it must have been to be a convict there. Although many of the buildings are shells, they still hold a powerful sense of the past and the occupants.

 This was a window in the chapel of the ‘other prison’ (I think that was it) where convicts attended weekly services. They were led in individually, to stand up in a upright-coffin shaped space where they could only look forward, not at any other convicts. Not that they were allowed to talk anyway and all the convicts had to wear sacking masks when outside their cells so they remained anonymous. 23 hours a day they were in their cells, silently working on making brooms, or shoes or other projects. They were identified by numbers never names. The floor had matting and they wore soft foot covering so even their walking was silent.

This gate leads to the prison yard where for an hour a day a prisoner might walk about. The walls are 2 1/2 m high and very thick so they would not have been able to communicate with anyone in the next yard, even if allowed. 

If they misbehaved, they spent time in solitary confinement cell … which was completely dark and silent. This is what it looked like … yup … like nothing. I did close the door, but didn’t stay very long at all.

They did build a fine church, handmade bricks and local stone. 


 The government gardens, were magnificent with an added benefit for visitors to Pt Arthur (it was quite the social place apparently) that it blocked off any view of the prison buildings.

How’s the size of this bee? Enormous!

This is a metallic sculpture inspired by the Rajah quilt. It’s at the Cascades Female Factory. The centre panel includes names of the Rajah convicts, some of whom worked on the quilt.

There are few buildings left of the Cascades Female Factory, but a dramatic enactment gave us some idea of what life was like for the women locked up here.

The markings on the ground here are the dimensions of the cells, where supposedly recalcitrant women spent time. They worked while in these cells, removing tar from rope so it could be reused. This section of the prison was low-lying and often damp or downright wet.

If misbehaviour continued, a woman might wear an iron neck piece 24 hours a day for up to 7 days.

Functional knottery.

 Last day and we visited MONA. I found it fabulous and not a little overwhelming. A lunch break and some time watching these two adolescent peacocks helped to balance the day. Then I headed back in to see some more before heading to the airport and home.

I wasn’t alone in taking time out. And the view was worth it. 
Last night we were lucky enough to have last minute invitations to the Rose of Tralee Ball (thanks Lone, Pat and Jackie), which was held in the sumptious (and I do mean sumptious) ballroom that hides beneath the Regent Theatre. There would have been over 500 people there as aspirants to the ‘Rose of Tralee’ title walked the stage and performed for the assembly.

Open House

We went into Melbourne city yesterday for Melbourne Open House. Fed Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, CH2, Regent Theatre and more, opened up rooms/buildings generally not accessible to the hoi polloi.

They, whoever ‘they’ are, underestimated the interest and queues for some buildings were hours long. We only stood in one queue, to see CH2 – a ‘green’ office block partially designed and occupied by Melbourne City Council. Tower showers, passive cooling, rolling concrete ceilings, vertical shade panels that move with the sun. Just a few of the innovations in this building which boasts decreased sick days and other people benefits. They also are a net provider of water into the ‘system’ – taking black water and producing drinking quality water which is used in cooling systems, toilets and sent to other buildings for toilets and the like. Quite staggering really what’s possible. And the roof top garden was a tranquil place with great views.

The Regent Theatre basement ballroom was a sight to behold. Part village square, part theatre, part ballroom. Art deco and more. I’ve included a few photos from this amazing room, because to describe it would be to miss something…

a column of masks and shields

roof detail

…tucked into a corner this…umm…

wall lighting

Apparently, before renovations, this room was for a time an accidental swimming pool, part filled with water from the leaking water feature in the neighbouring City Square.