Frederic C. (Frederic Chambers) Spurr.

Five years under the Southern Cross; experiences and impressions online

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Comparative Study of Religion, Homiletics, Soci-
ology, Missions, etc. For this purpose it was sug-
gested that a common hall should be erected, or,
failing this, that the largest available room in any
of the existing colleges should be used for the pur-
pose of giving common lectures on the subjects
specified. A full and complete time-table was drawn
up by the Chairman of the Commission. The
wisdom of this arrangement is apparent to all. Each
student will now have the advantage of the very
best instruction given by the very best available
professors. In place of paddling in a shallow pool,
each man may now swim in the deep water. Nothing
better than this will break down that provincialism
which has been for too long the curse of small
colleges. Australia, in particular, needs that broader


Religion in Australia

outlook which a more generous education of the type
proposed alone can give. In pioneering days simpler
teaching was ample; now that the times have
changed, and Australia is sharing the culture of the
old world, the highest ministerial equipment is

There was no difficulty with regard to Commission
No. 2. Everybody had recognised in a general way
the scandal of overlapping in Home Mission dis-
tricts. But the evidence collected by the Commission
determined the Congress to insist upon the imme-
diate cessation of this scandal. We heard of small
"townships" (there are no "villages" in Australia)
consisting of 200 people, in which two or three
churches were struggling for less than a bare exist-
ence. We realised the enormous waste of energy
and of money which this scandalous state of things
entails. The report of the Commission was heartily
endorsed that this overlapping " constitutes a problem
of the most serious order, and is a reproach which
the Churches are bound in honour to efface." Pend-
ing the coming organic union in which the entire
question would be immediately settled, the Commis-
sion suggested the forming of an Advisory Committee
of the Churches, to which all proposals of denomina-
tional extension shall be referred, as also all questions
relating to overlapping and co-operation. There is
no need to enumerate the details of the scheme; it is
sufficient to state the general principle.

The most serious work of the Congress was re-
served for the last day, when "the difficulties and


Five Years under the Southern Cross

possibilities of organic union " were discussed. Each
of the Churches supplied a statement of what it
regarded as essential to real union. These statements
were subsequently amended (save in one case) so as
to narrow the issue. Methodists, Congregationalists,
and Presbyterians were seen to be in practical agree-
ment upon all main things, and the opinion was
openly expressed that there was no valid reason why
they should remain apart. The real difficulties in
the way to union seemed to come from the Anglican
and the Baptist Churches : the one in its doctrine of
Orders, the other in its doctrine and practice of
Baptism. And yet in both cases the olive branch
was generously held out. The Anglican representa-
tives so modified their statement regarding the
Historic Episcopate and Orders as to bring it within
reasonable approach to the Free Church doctrine of
the ministry. The Baptist representatives committed
the following statement to writing :

"The committee think they are warranted in say-
ing that our people generally would be prepared to
leave the question of baptism quite open for each
person to receive according to his conscience and
not to make it a test of Church membership. That
is to say, in the interests of a great movement towards
unity, they, on their part, would not make baptism
a test question, one way or another. While firmly
believing that the baptism of intelligent believers
in Christ is the best safeguard of spiritual Church
membership, inasmuch as the candidate of his own
will yields to the yoke of Christ, yet they believe


Religion in Australia

that the majority of Baptists would consider the
question of the unity of the Churches to be the major
question, hence they would be willing ... to cease
to demand the immersion of intelligent believers as
a sine qua non of Church membership. They could
not surrender the truth of believers' baptism, yet
they would be prepared to admit the broader basis
of Church membership. ... Is it too much to ask
those Churches which practise infant baptism to so
reconsider their position as (while guarding the ideas
of infant and parental dedication) to throw greater
emphasis upon that later personal dedication to Christ
which the Baptist rite expresses ? "

The total result of this Commission is thus
summarised: "The formal obstacles to union have
been more clearly defined than ever before, and the
Commission believe they will be regarded as smaller
than they were supposed to be."

Such was the Congress. Without doubt it ac-
complished a world of good. It cleared the air, it
brought us all closer together. And what now re-
mains to be done ? First of all a Continuation Com-
mittee was appointed to further the next work of the
Congress, to meet in further conference, to grapple
with the few remaining obstacles that lie in the path
to union, and to bring the whole subject before the
various Church Courts. The Congress represented
the elite of the Churches, the most thoughtful, the
most advanced, the most influential. The difficulty
may lie with the rank and file of the Churches, those
in whom prejudice is most firmly established, and


Five Years under the Southern Cross

from whom it is with greater difficulty dislodged
the ill-informed, the uncharitable, the stubborn. To
conquer these may not be easy, but it will be finally
sure if we have patience. In a land like Australia,
with its keen problems, its democratic life, its great
future, and its freedom from hampering traditions,
there should easily be established one great United
Australasian Evangelical Church.



THE sight of a map such as this map of Tasmania
which lies before me causes an Englishman who be-
holds it for the first time to deal severely with him-
self, to interrogate himself concerning his habits, to
assure himself beyond the shadow of a doubt that he
is really temperate. For it is a study in topsy-
turvydom, and the contrariness of the thing lies
either in the remarkable map itself or in the man
who reads it.

Imagine a nice fat slice of the middle of the
map of England, clearly cut out and converted
into a separate chart, with a new disposition of
the counties thus : To the north, Dorset, Devon,
and Cornwall together; below these, Westmorland;
by the side of Westmorland, Lincoln ; below
Westmorland, Somerset, by the side of which is
Glamorgan ; and at the bottom of all, Kent. Now,
think of a country with a map like that. Surely it is
not superfluous to reaffirm the correctness of one's
personal habits, in declaring that this map really
exists. And, looking into it a little farther, one sees
marked a river Jordan, and the towns of Jericho,
Tiberias, and Bagdad, while in a footnote the informa-
R 257

Five Years under the Southern Cross

tion is conveyed that "Sheffield enjoys an exhilarat-
ing climate, being situated in a high altitude."
Sheffield, of all places !

When, however, the first feeling of amusement
created by the sight of the map has passed away,
one readily understands how this curious collection
of counties came into existence. Little by little the
life of the island country has developed, and love in
high places has sought to perpetuate, by means of
the dear old names, some of the sweet memories of
the far-away land which sent its sons and daughters
to people the empty space of the lone southern
country. Caprice probably accounts for Jericho and

Tasmania guards the old English names; but,
more than that, it guards, better than does Australia
proper, the characteristics of old English life. For
one thing, the climate permits this. In Australia,
during a great part of the year, the surroundings
are utterly un-English. Mild winters, scorching
summers, the absence of snow and ice, the presence
of native flora, create a social life and surroundings
which never recall the Old Country, with its won-
derful green grass, its unique hedges, and carefully
sheltered abodes. Little wonder, then, that the new
generation of Australians fails entirely to understand
the conditions of English life, or to sympathise with
them. Its youth read a cable announcing that "snow
has fallen continuously in England for twenty-four
"hours," and they murmur, "What a country ! "

But in Tasmania so many things recall the Old

In Van Diemen's Land

Land. The climate is English at the best, with the
exception of the west coast, where it always seems
to be raining. There is a patch of country on that
coast where the rainfall reaches the amazing total of
140 inches per annum. But that is pure extravagance.
The inhabitants of that quarter appear to be very
contented ; they make every provision to meet the odd
requirements of the climate, and as they are happy it
is not our affair to quarrel with them.

Apart from the west coast, Tasmania is an ideal
place of residence. I had the pleasure of traversing
the island from end to end, and it completely cap-
tured me. I am no longer astonished that so many
Anglo-Indians, their professional work achieved, find
in Tasmania a final home. Unable, after the heat of
India, to live in England, they find Tasmania an
ideal residence. The climate, generally speaking,
resembles that of Cornwall. At midsummer the
average temperature is only 63 degrees, while at mid-
winter it is 43 degrees. Thus the terrible heat to
which we in Victoria were occasionally subjected at
midsummer is nearly unknown in Tasmania. And
one happy consequence is that all kinds of fruit grown
in Britain are grown in Tasmania, which is more than
we can say of Australia. Two crops of strawberries
appear each year in December and February.
During the nearly five years of my residence in
Melbourne strawberries have been taboo. Australia
cannot produce strawberries worthy of the name. The
climate forbids. But in Hobart we come to our own
again. The strawberries placed upon our table at


Five Years under the Southern Cross

the hotel are equal to any we formerly tasted in Kent
or Sussex.

Life in Tasmania possesses many English char-
acteristics. Launceston and Hobart are to all intents
and purposes English towns. The "villa" or bunga-
low type of house, so common in Australia, is com-
paratively rare in Tasmania. The fronts of the houses
are directly exposed to the sun. The familiar Eng-
lish "terrace" is repeated in Tasmania, while small
flights of stone steps, carefully whitened, lead from
the pavement to the front door. In some places the
dismal London "basement" is found. Again and
again, when walking or driving through the several
towns of the island, have I imagined myself to be
in the Midlands of the Old Country, and at times in
' Penzance. The lazy leisure of those smaller English
towns is duplicated in the Tasmanian centres.
Nobody is in a hurry. The island is limited, and
there are no express trains nor greyhound steamers
to catch. The mail from beyond enters and is dis-
patched three times per week. There is but one day
and one night train in the twenty-four hours between
Launceston and Hobart. Why, then, should anyone
kill himself with over-exertion ? Mail days alone are
the bustling days, and the apple season alone the
strenuous one. For the rest, life moves smoothly and

There are two or three ways of approaching Tas-
mania from the mainland. The popular route from
Victoria is by steamer to Launceston, and thence to
Hobart, or the west and east coasts by rail. A second


In Van Diemen's Land

route is by the New Zealand steamers, which call first
at Hobart. And a third route is the round tour by
sea, touching the two chief cities and the important
coastal towns. The first two routes, once the terrors
of the sea are over, are romantically beautiful. In the
one case the steamer proceeds for the final three hours
up the course of the River Tamar; in the other case,
up the course of the River Derwent. Of the two,
the scenery of the Derwent is far more attractive.
Mountains rise from the edge of the water, in which,
as in a perfect mirror, they are marvellously reflected.
The bay at Hobart rivals Sydney Harbour. Indeed,
many travellers prefer it to Sydney. It cannot, of
course, compare for a moment with Sydney for ex-
tent, but, flanked by the mass of Mount Wellington,
it possesses a majesty which Sydney lacks.

In the summer-time Tasmania is essentially a
pleasure resort for the parched and panting inhabi-
tants of the mainland. It offers every conceivable
attraction to visitors. It is a land of rivers, of moun-
tains, of valleys, and of exhilarating plateaux. Here,
in the long ago, when Tasmania was joined to the
Australian land, Nature engaged in one of her titanic
conflicts. Violent eruptions took place, terrible
separations occurred, and to-day the island bears
witness, in many a gash and elevation and depres-
sion, to the character of the convulsions which rent
its life in far-away ages. Nature, as is her way, has
concealed most of the scars with coverings of rare
beauty. The mountains, flung up by appalling forces,
are covered with the everlasting eucalyptus, the


Five Years under the Southern Cross

stately wattle, and shrubs and undergrowth of every
hue. In the winter and late on into the spring
Mount Wellington is covered with snow. Then
Hobart possesses its fairest setting. At a place called
Fern Tree, situated on the slopes of Mount Wel-
lington at an elevation of 2,000 feet above the sea,
we came across a very beautiful resting place. One
solitary hotel and a few boarding-houses contain the
total of population. Well named is the locality, for
giant tree ferns flourish in the neighbouring gullies.
There are masses of huge fronds so dense and inter-
laced as to form a veritable Indian jungle, and the
presence of an occasional tiger-snake completes the
Indian picture. From the veranda of the best
boarding-house I have stayed at for many a long day
the view of mountain and gully is perfect. Behind,
in the distance, lies the harbour of Hobart, the war-
ships of the Australian Squadron resting upon its
bosom. Here we are out of the world, breathing
mountain air that recalls Switzerland. We are en-
veloped with the quietness of Eden.

In this land of mountains, hills, and valleys there
is abundance of water. Droughts, such as periodi-
cally visit Australia, are unknown here. The rainfall
is even and plentiful. And always there are the lakes
situated in high altitudes. The Great Lake has a
circumference of ninety miles. While these abide,
the supply of water is sure. On the railway journey
between Launceston and Hobart an excellent idea of
the undulating character of the country is obtained.
The line is sinuous and at times nerve-straining. To


In Van Diemen's Land

avoid tunnelling, the sides of the mountain are
skirted, and it is no uncommon thing for a traveller
to look out of the window and to behold his train
bent like a serpent, its head and tail gliding in ap-
proved reptile fashion. Small as is Tasmania, it
boasts no fewer than fifty mountains, the altitudes of
which range from 2,500 to 5,000 feet. These eleva-
tions result in a wonderfully pure air, and in a
bracing climate in which neither malaria nor chest
affections can flourish.

But to every rule there is an exception, and we
have been unlucky enough to taste the exception. We
fled from Melbourne to escape the wicked heat. The
city and suburbs were stifling. Day after day the
north wind blew ; at noon the temperature rose to
107 degrees in the shade, and at midnight the glass
registered 90 degrees in the bedroom. The adults
in our home barely clothed themselves, while the
children, dressed in bathing costumes, were placed
in the bath to "play seaside," and thus to keep cool.
We came to Tasmania for coolness, and then, what
had not happened in the island for forty years, and
what may not again happen for another forty, did
happen. The heat wave followed us, and for three
days Tasmania experienced the horrors of inferno.
We tried the river, hoping to find a breeze, but the
breath that greeted us was as from the mouth of an
oven. On the third day bush fires broke out spon-
taneously all over the island. Motorists, whose route
lay through the bush, had to cover themselves with
rugs and to rush through the heat at speed far beyond


Five Years under the Southern Cross

that permitted by law. Some handsome cars emerged
from the ordeal blistered and burned and spoiled.
Trains ran a gauntlet of fire. One curious passenger,
protruding his head to see what was the matter, fell
back into the carriage with beard and eyebrows well
singed. The city and the country were enveloped in
a great heat haze impregnated with the smoke from
a hundred fires. Upon the night before the wave
broke we ascended an eminence and beheld a terrify-
ing spectacle. The entire countryside seemed to be
on fire. Great red flames licked up the grass and
undergrowth, and embraced, to their death, the giant
eucalyptus trees. Men watched with anxiety solitary
houses which lay in the path of the fire. At last the
naval brigade was called out to try to beat down the
flames. At dawn the hill-side was still smouldering
here and there, while great charred patches showed
how completely the flames had done their work. A
few hours later the rain fell, and men bared their
faces to its refreshing coolness. Soon Tasmania
recovered its normal climate, and we rejoiced in a
keen and bracing atmosphere amongst the mountains.




IF, to the average Briton, Australia represents the
limit of distance from "home," what can Tasmania,
New Zealand, and the Islands of the Southern
Pacific represent? They are the limit beyond the
limit; the uttermost stretch of far-awayness. That
is the reason, perhaps, why Englishmen think of
Tasmania with a shiver, especially if they happen to
know its history. The present name of the island
Tasmania holds less of terror than did the former
name Van Diemen's Land. There was something
sinister in the very name, especially when it was
wrongly spelled, as by the budding aspirant to geo-
graphical fame Van Demon's Land. Van Diemen
himself was a shadowy personality, of whom the
average school geographer knew nothing whatever.
The land itself, however, was well known as a convict
settlement, even by those who knew nothing more
about it; and with Van Diemen plus the convicts,
there seemed to be a subtle suggestion of a land of
fire a second Tierra del Fuego. The reason cannot
easily be explained; but the fact is undeniably there.
Men thought of Van Diemen's Land with a kind of


Five Years under the Southern Cross

But now, this same land, with the softer name of
Tasmania, has become famous as the great home of
the apple, and as the sanatorium, for sick and healthy
folk alike, of the Southern Pacific. And in the new
name of the country its discoverer has at length come
to his own. It frequently happens in this world of
ours that to the wrong man fall the honours. Van
Diemen was the Governor of the Batavian Dutch
Settlement, and he it was who sent out Tasman on
successive voyages of discovery. Tasman did the
work, and Van Diemen reaped the honours. To
Tasman belongs the credit of discovering the great
South land, of which Tasmania is now a part.
Exactly 270 years have passed since the hitherto un-
known island was marked upon the map of the world.
The Dutch, however, although the discoverers of the
island, were not its occupiers. They noted its exist-
ence and passed on. It was reserved for Britain all-
encompassing Britain to add this neglected strip of
territory to its expanding Empire, and that in the
year 1803. I have been fortunate enough to en-
counter several experts in Tasmanian history; men
who, from various points of view, have studied the
life of the island; newspaper men, librarians, the
curator of the museum, an elderly clergyman, and
several old settlers. And I shall set down what they
have told me.

The transition from the old state of things to the
new is one of the marvels of the New World. At the
commencement of the nineteenth century the island
was a great bush waste. It consisted of mountains


The Romance of Tasmania

and forests, rivers and lakes, as at present, but the
land was uncultivated. There were no roads. Not
an apple grew. Wild beasts, wild birds, and wild
men divided the territory between them. Tasmania
was off the highway of the world a scrap-heap upon
which savages dwelt. And to-day this island, about
the size of Scotland and an integral part of the Aus-
tralasian Commonwealth, is one of the most fruitful
places upon God's earth. It does a large trade in
fruit, minerals, wool, timber and agricultural produce.
It has established a number of important towns, each
a centre of industry. It grows strawberries and hops
equal to the best grown in Kent. It offers trout
fishing of such a character as to satisfy the ambition
of the biggest boaster of grand catches. Politically
it is free; the women have the franchise. Commer-
cially it is successful. Many men have made a fortune
through its commerce, while its small population of
less than 200,000 persons has managed to deposit in
the public banks nearly four millions sterling, and in
the savings bank more than a million and a half. The
railways are owned by the State. In the matter of
education, full provision is made for the instruction of
all. There is a university with an excellent staff of
professors. The education is non-sectarian in the day
schools, but the clergy of the various denominations
are allowed to give religious instruction either during
or after school hours, as may be convenient for all
concerned. School fees are very moderate, and in
the case of the very poor the education is entirely
free. In cases where children reside more than two


Five Years under the Southern Cross

miles from a State school, free railway tickets to
and from the nearest station are provided by the

The land is thus cleared and civilised. A few
ugly creatures still infest the forests. The serpent is
always to be dreaded. It is an unwritten law that
any man who encounters a serpent shall at once, if
he can, break its back. Sometimes the serpent is
too sharp for its antagonist, inflicting a wound and
then escaping. Men who penetrate into the bush
carry with them a small outfit against the bite of the
snake. The remedy is drastic. The flesh around the
wound is immediately cut with a knife, permanganate
of potash is dropped into it, and then the flesh above
the wound is tightly bound with a ligature. This is
first-aid until the services of a doctor are secured.
The "Tasmanian Devil" I have seen only in the
museum. It is a horrible-looking creature, in appear-
ance like a bear, of nocturnal habits, and very fond
of attacking sheep. One day, perhaps, a substan-
tial Saint Patrick will be able to boast that he has
cleared the land of snakes.

The story of Tasmania since it became a part of
the British Empire is not altogether a pleasant one.
It opens with a page of convict history. The
Governor of New South Wales, finding himself in
Sydney with a glut of convicts on hand, thought of
Tasmania as a means of relieving the congestion.
So there came to the south of the island to Hobart
Town an assortment of choice criminals, transported
from England for offences more or less dreadful.


The Romance of Tasmania

Those were the days when brutality reigned upon
the bench, when a man was hanged for sheep stealing,
and when, for a political offence, a man sacrificed his
liberty. We must not too hastily assume that all the
convicts sent out in those barbarous days were really
bad men. Many of them to-day would be good-
naturedly allowed to continue their harangues. But
others of the convicts belonged to the dregs of society.
They were thieves, murderers, unredeemed villains.
And this motley crowd came to Hobart. Prison
discipline at that time was both severe and lax.
Sometimes devilishly severe, as in the case of a
soldier who, convicted of drunkenness and using

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Online LibraryFrederic C. (Frederic Chambers) SpurrFive years under the Southern Cross; experiences and impressions → online text (page 16 of 18)