Party like a pirate – Celebration of convict links

A FUN-packed weekend to celebrate the bicentenary of the act of piracy that gave Pirates Bay its name will be held at the end of January.

A hardworking group of local volunteers and history buffs have put together a program for the whole family.

The idea for the festival was developed in early 2021 when members of the Eaglehawk Neck History Group were studying a map of Tasmania dating from 1824.

They were intrigued to see beneath the name, Pirates Bay, the words “Schooner taken, 30th Jan. 1822”.

Group spokesperson Ruth Moon said the detailed reference to the act of piracy prompted the group to realise the bicentennial was coming up.

“We decided to look into it further,’’ Ms Moon said.
“What the group discovered is a fascinating story involving some of the best-known convict and free settlers’ names of Van Diemen’s Land.”
“George Meredith, one of the earliest colonists in the Swansea area, had chartered the schooner Seaflower from Anthony Fenn Kemp and Richard Barker.

“Then there are the pirates, at least six men, including Matthew Travers and Robert Greenhill.
“Travers and Greenhill were sent to Macquarie Harbour when they were captured. It was a horrible place, but they might have done well to stay there.
“They escaped, however, with the wrong man – Alexander Pearce, the cannibal convict.
“Needless to say, they didn’t survive.’’

A third pirate was William Walker, otherwise known as Will Swallow.
“Swallow got a little further with Seaflower than Travers and Greenhill, but he was eventually captured.

This didn’t stop him though and he later did make it all the way back to England. “Swallow was one of several convicts being transported to Macquarie Harbour aboard Cyprus when they seized the ship, putting those who hadn’t supported them ashore in Recherche Bay.

“Then they sailed to New Zealand and onwards. “Eventually captured in England, Swallow told the story of his adventures, claiming to have visited Japan – a country then closed to foreigners.
“His story was never believed, until just a few years ago, when Nick Russell, an English teacher in Japan, discovered an illustrated account of their visit.

It included a painting of a man thought to be Will Swallow himself.

Bicentenary events include a history talk presented by James Parker, Dianne Snowden, Malcolm Ward and Craig Brown.

This will be held in conjunction with the festival opening.

The opening by Tasman Mayor Kelly Spaulding will also include the presentation of Australia Day awards and a citizenship ceremony on Friday, January 28 from 2pm to 4pm.

Mr Spaulding said the community wanted to use the event to welcome newcomers to the area.

“But we don’t want to ignore indigenous history,’’ he said.
“Tasmanian Aboriginal people have such a profound connection to this place which they knew as teralina.
“We want to acknowledge that and invite them to be part of these events as they are an important part of our story. An Aboriginal elder will welcome us to country.’’ A new theatrical performance, The Pirates, the Unknown Cannibals and the Man Who Changed His Feathers will be showcased by the Tasman and Forestier Arts Association.

There will be two performances on Friday January 28 at 7.30 pm and 2 pm on Saturday January 29.

Producer James Parker said it would be entertaining for the whole family.

“The play is going to be great entertainment for all ages, with sea shanties, convict songs and even a polka bringing the historical events and larger-than-life characters to life,’’ Mr Parker said.

Two masted brigantine Windeward Bound will anchor at Pirates Bay to represent the Seaflower on January 29 and 30.

A pirate ball and supper at the Lufra Hotel will be held on Saturday January 29 from 7.30pm.

For Covid safety, it will be held outside.

Organiser Heather Henri said the group was hoping guests at the ball would dress up in their “piratical best” as there would be a prize for the best costume and a lucky door prize.

Barrelhouse will perform and Sidewalk Tango will put on a mini dance performance.

“It is value at $40 per head, with welcome drinks and a delicious supper,’’ Ms Henri said.

A Pirates’ Sunday market and fun day will be held at the Eaglehawk Neck Hall, 10am to 2.30pm on Sunday January 30.

Local children’s entertainer Michelle Pears will lead an imaginary pirates treasure hunt.

There will be a variety of stalls, with art, craft and food for sale, a Pirates Bay history display and live music.

The Wooden Boat Guild of Tasmania will have restored wooden boats on display.

“We’re hoping people will start getting their piratical decorations up throughout January, to get us into the mood for some piracy, but if anyone is unsure where to start, the Dunalley Neighbourhood House will be offering some tips for little and grown-up kids at a make your own pirate workshop from 10am to noon on January 25,’’ Ms Henri said.
“Or they could also get inspiration from a film The Pirates of Penzance, which the Eaglehawk Neck Film Society will be screening for members on January 22, 7 pm, at the Eaglehawk Neck Community Hall.’’

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