French’s forestry years
• Bridport resident Graeme French recounts his days operating sawmills in the North-East.

• Bridport resident Graeme French recounts his days operating sawmills in the North-East.

By Daisy Baker
April 10, 2019

BRIDPORT’S Graeme French learned the ways of the forestry industry from a young age, starting work in his father’s sawmill at 14.
Mr French grew up in Scottsdale and was the eldest son of eight children to Sydney and Nellie French.
The family’s sawmill stood where the library is now in King Street and the block of land ran through to Arthur Street where the squash centre is.
“The old sawmill was driven by a steam engine and we had a big boiler in there and we used to have to stoke the boiler until nine o’clock at night and then light it up again around seven o’clock in the morning to provide the steam to run the steam engine to run the sawmill,” he says.
“We used to use the shavings from the planning mill for fuel for the boiler. It was very, very flammable and naturally we had a few fires.
“When the fire brigade warning would go off the fire brigade knew where to go,” he laughs.
While Mr French was growing up, his father was also the funeral director in the North-East.
 “I don’t remember it but apparently they used to have a very nice horse-drawn cane hearse, which I used to play on when it was in the shed.”
Sydney French took over the funeral business after his father died, but over time as his other businesses grew, it became too much to handle and he sold to Charlie Parker.
The business is now Lethborg’s Funerals. 
In the early 1960s Mr French went into business with his brother Kevin.
After a reasonably big fire, Mr French says they were not allowed to rebuild in Scottsdale so they closed the mill and bought the property at Ling Siding where the fuel depot is now, which became known as French’s Mill.
The new mill had a small treatment plant and drying kilns, where they operated for some years before it too caught fire.
After fires in South Australia burned out sizeable plantations in Mount Gambier, a modern sawmill was built to run for several years to utilise the burned out forest.
The timber was squared off and sent to Japan.
“When this contract ran out, we put a tender in for that sawmill because it was very modern, I think it was about $750,000 at the time,” he remembers.
“We won the tender and I went with an electrician and three or four guys and pulled the sawmill out and I think we finished up with eight semi-trailer loads of machinery that we salvaged from over there that turned out to be probably one of the most economic sawmills in the southern hemisphere. It was a very modern mill.”
After 40 odd years working in sawmills, Mr French sold his partnership to his brother and went to work in real estate.
“I bought several properties and gradually added to it. Getting involved with real estate was a very good thing,” he said.
“I think I finished up with about six or seven properties – they all finished up with national companies so I was very lucky with that.”
Mr French got out of the Mill prior to the demise of the timber industry in Scottsdale.
“I think when I left the mill out there around about 100 employees, including contractors and it got to the stage where I don’t know whose fault it was, but we couldn’t seem to get an allocation to keep the mill going,” he says.
“The forestry commission advertised a volume of timber for sale and we missed out on the contract and the timber went to Timberlink in George Town.
“They won the contact for the volume that Forestry was selling and they didn’t even have the mill built.
“It was a couple of years before they could utilise it, so Kevin had no quota and no option but to sell out. He had 120-130 people working for him. That was a real blow.”
During his years working in the mill, Mr French helped a colleague work his horses every morning.
His days started at about five in the morning working the horses and finished around nine at night stoking the boiler.
“That was my introduction to work. I worked long hours and worked hard.”
Outside of work, Mr French was actively involved in the community through the Scottsdale Football Club as a player, and he was also the president of the Rotary Club and Trotting Club for several years.
Eventually, Mr French started breeding horses, some of which he says were very good.
 “I gave my brother in law a half share in a couple of horses and they turned out to be pretty handy,” he says.
“We won the Tasmanian championship in Hobart with Paleface Tiki, a beautiful stallion, a very honest horse.
“We raced another one in Melbourne and got horse of the year over there and overall, I think we won about 80 odd races during my short time with the horses.”
Mr French also worked at the steak stand at the Scottsdale Show for 50 odd years, cooking steak on a circular saw over a little homemade barbecue, before the Rotary Club built the show stand where it is operating now.
Today, Mr French lives in Bridport with his wife Carol, admiring the seaside views from their light-filled home, where they are visited by their three children and six grandchildren.

Gerkes’ colourful life in Scottsdale
• Glenn and Shirley Gerke in the garden of their Scottsdale home.

• Glenn and Shirley Gerke in the garden of their Scottsdale home.

• The house Mrs Gerke’s grandfather built on the corner of Gofton Street where the service station is now.

• The house Mrs Gerke’s grandfather built on the corner of Gofton Street where the service station is now.

By Daisy Baker
February 27, 2019

GLENN and Shirley Gerke are well-known in the North-East after running successful businesses throughout the region.
Mr and Mrs Gerke are both in their 90th year and have been married for 66 years.
They have three sons, Robin, Noel and Kelly, 11 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.
Mr and Mrs Gerke met at a dance in the 1940s, and while Mrs Gerke says they didn’t get together right away, Glenn’s moves certainly made an impression.
“He was a very good dancer and we used to enjoy our dancing together,” she remembers fondly.
“We also played a lot of golf. Glenn was president and I was captain of the Scottsdale Golf Club for a while.”
Mr Gerke’s parents were originally from Tasmania but lived in Queensland until Glenn was 17, when they returned to their home state.
The Ransons, who were Mr Gerke’s uncles, had several shops along Victoria street, including a grocery store, a butchery and a confectionery shop.
After moving to Tasmania in the 1940s, Mr Gerke bought trucks from his uncle Clarry Ranson and later bought school buses. 
Between running a truck, owning three school buses and building the service station opposite Lord’s Hotel, Mrs Gerke says they had a “very busy life”.
Before she got married, Mrs Gerke worked at the council chambers as the assistant council clerk. “It’s very different now. I was the only one in the office with the council clerk but now there’s a lot there.
“When I got married, Glenn worked in the public works and I went around with him in the caravan to different places so that was very interesting.
“I hadn’t even cooked a potato when we got married so it was a big shock for a while but luckily Glenn had worked away and he could teach me how to cook.”
Mrs Gerke’s grandfather built a house on the corner of Gofton Street where the service station is now, and the street was named after my family, the Goftons.
She grew up next door to their current home in Scottsdale, which she says back then was farmland.
“We used to have a beach box on a beach in Bridport and that’s Goftons Beach now.
“It’s just surprising these names, they just seem to come about. You don’t name them, it was just because we were always there.”
Mrs Gerke remembers her father walking from their Scottsdale home to work at the sawmill in his suit each day.
“When you go to Launceston via the Sideling, there’s that lookout. Well I can remember when there were huts there and my father had the sawmill on the other side, at the back of Nabowla actually.
“You used to go on a trolley and go down and these men lived and worked there and we used to go up and play there.
“It’s different now though. There’s not very many people who would remember that now, it’s over 80 years ago.”
Mr Gerke has memories of the Old Pier burning down and the train to Bridport.
“The railway line used to come from the Forester and they used to bring the timber through and load it on the boat and take it out to sea, from Bridport,” he says.
One of Mrs Gerke’s hobbies has been gardening, and to this day she had more than 100 roses in her garden.
“I don’t like anyone else touching them, but this year I’ll have to get a bit more help in the garden.”
Over the years, Mr and Mrs Gerke have enjoyed travelling Australia in their four-wheel drive and caravan with a boat on top.
“We stopped going on trips about five years ago but now I think our children and grandchildren have got the wanderlust,” Mrs Gerke says.
“We’ve had a really colourful life,” Mr Gerke smiles.

Tales from Winnaleah’s former cheesery
• Bevis and Clare Howard ran a successful cheesery in Winnaleah for 21 years.

• Bevis and Clare Howard ran a successful cheesery in Winnaleah for 21 years.

By Daisy Baker
13 February, 2019 

WHILE Clare and Bevis Howard both grew up on farms, at Branxholm and Cressy respectively, neither expected they would become prize cheesemakers.
The couple moved to Winnaleah in 1969 after buying a farm off Clare’s uncle, George Lefevre.
Mrs Howard says her uncle sadly passed away the same day they moved to the farm.
“One of Mum’s other brothers, Uncle Claude moved to St Helens, but he came up regularly and taught us to make the cheese,” she says.
They began making cheese not long after they moved, using an old boiler left at the farm.
“I thought I knew everything there was to know about farming as I was reared on one, but I soon learned that I didn’t know much at all,” Mr Howard laughs.
“These are the moulds we used to use,” he says, pointing to a photo of a series of tins, ranging in volume from three pounds to 80 pounds.
Each night when they milked the cows, they put the milk in a big vat and covered it overnight.
“When morning came, we’d add some starters Clare had made and some of the fresh milk from that day and stir it,” Mr Howard explains.
“When we finished milking, we’d heat the milk up until it was about hand temperature. I put some milk in with the starter and then I’d tip it in and keep it stirred, I’d put some rennet in too.
“We’d go home and have some breakfast – we had about forty minutes and we’d come back and it would be set like a junket and then you’d have to cut it into little pieces, horizontally and vertically and you’d have to wipe it off the sides of the vat,” he says.
They would process up to 1,000 litres each time.
“In the autumn you’d have less but the milk would be richer and therefore you get more cheese per gallon of milk that what you would in the spring time.”
Mrs Howard explains they gradually warmed it up to 102 degrees, testing the acidity and if it was going well, they would separate the whey from the curd to be fed to pigs and calves.
“We’d then put it up the top of the vat and cut it into slabs and turn it over and keep going until the acid was high enough,” she explains.
“We’d put it into a shredder that cut it up like potato chips and then we pressed them into the mould and put them on the shelves.
“The next day people would come in and some people would buy them and others would buy more mature ones. We had tourist buses and all coming to the farm.”
At the time, they were one of three cheesemakers in Tasmania selling their product.
They often exhibited their cheese in the Scottsdale Show, collecting many prizes for their cheddar.
While helping make their much-loved cheese, Clare was a relief teacher at Winnaleah District School.
This was a return to the school where she trained as a teachers’ aide while completing her secondary education.
After 21 years on the farm, Mrs Howard moved to Sandy Bay to support their two daughters while they studied at university.
“I was coming home one day [to Winnaleah] and I thought ‘I’m mad doing this’ so I went into Scottsdale and put the place on the market,” Mr Howard says.
He worked at Sandy Bay at Hazell Bros for several years, then the couple moved to Longford.
Today, they have 13 grandchildren and Clare keeps busy writing poetry, scrapbooking and visiting nursing homes, while Bevis maintains their splendid garden.
While the Howards no longer live in the North-East, many of Mrs Howard’s Singline and Lefevre relatives remain in the area.
The famous story of her great aunt Annie Beechey’s remarkable survival, after nine winter days lost in the wilderness, is written on a sign at Pyengana at the entrance of the St Columba Falls walking track.
Annie went into the bush looking for the family’s dairy cowfor evening milking, when she became disoriented.
A search party found no trace of Annie and after several days of freezing temperatures, the search was abandoned.
On the ninth morning, after being stalked by a Tasmanian Tiger for days, and surviving on stinging nettle roots and bird eggs, Annie laid down to die, when a voice spoke to her.
“She heard this voice which said ‘Annie, stand up and walk a few more steps in front of you’. She did so and emerged onto the bush track, just as a buggy was approaching her,” Mrs Howard says.
“She lost several toes to frostbite and as you can see in this photo here, her skin was blackened, burnt by wind, sun and frost, but remarkably she survived.”
Mrs Howard says her great aunt’s story has been passed down through her family and it will no doubt be repeated for generations to come.

The namesake of Scottsdale’s streets
• Bonnie Heazlewood-Foster, the great granddaughter of early settler to Scottsdale Thomas Diprose Heazlewood.

• Bonnie Heazlewood-Foster, the great granddaughter of early settler to Scottsdale Thomas Diprose Heazlewood.


By Daisy Baker
09 January, 2019

DRIVING through the streets of Scottsdale, Ellenor, Christopher, William and Mary are all names you see on street signs daily but what you may not know is the history behind them.
Prior to the railway being built in Scottsdale, early settler Thomas Diprose Heazlewood owned half of the town, and his sister Mrs Jane Tucker owned the other half.
Mr Heazlewood lived with his wife Mary and their nine children opposite the RSL Museum, where the wooden carving of Simpson and his donkey now stands.
TD Heazlewood and his sister eventually sold off their land so the railway could go through, naming the streets after their family members.
Bonnie Heazlewood-Foster, the great granddaughter of TD Heazlewood, has been collecting family history for much of her life.
“I’ll take you on a journey through Scottsdale… you’re coming down George Street, you go into Alfred Street that was named after Uncle Alf, then you come into Christopher Street, that’s Uncle Chris, then you come into Charles St, that’s Uncle Charlie,” she said.
“Ellenor Street was named after the eldest of the family, who was their only daughter. Aunty Ellenor, she was Mrs Gregory and she lived in a big house just near the Mechanics’ Hall in King Street where the new post office is.
“From what I’ve been told, when she died her will stated that her daughter ‘Lenie’ (Ella) could live at the house until she died or got married (after which she would have to vacate the premises), and the building would then be held in trust for the new post office to be built for the people of Scottsdale and that’s what they did.”
Ms Heazlewood-Foster said King and George street were named after King George.
“I stand to be corrected on this but I’ve always been told that Mary street was after my great grandmother,” she said.
“However it could also be named after King George’s wife Queen Mary, although there is no Queen Street.
“On the other side of Scottsdale, Jane Tucker built the big homestead called Beulah, and when she sold her part she named that section after her kids.”
When TD Heazlewood sold his portion of Scottsdale, he bought four 100-acre blocks at Springfield.
“He gave them to four of his sons: Arthur John, which is Grandpa, got one, then up the back was Uncle Charlie’s and that is now Robert and Belinda Hall’s private home,” Ms Heazlewood Foster said.
“Then you go next door and that was Uncle Alf’s then in the front was Uncle Chris.
“Two are still in the Heazlewood name and the other two are in the Hall name.”
The farm that was once owned by Arthur John Heazlewood has been in the family for four generations and is now owned by Ms Heazlewood-Foster’s cousin Terry.
Ms Heazlewood-Foster is concerned that when she passes on, this will be the end of the Heazlewood name in the area, so she is making sure the history is preserved.
Ms Heazlewood-Foster recently unveiled a plaque at the Cenotaph in Scottsdale, in memory of her uncle Jim, her dad’s brother, who was killed in the Middle East in 1941.
“By having that there, it’s keeping the family name in Scottsdale and I’ve done a similar one at St Paul’s church in Springfield where they’ve got a cenotaph and I donated the flagpole and another lovely plaque.”
She said TD Heazlewood’s family, who the streets are named after, formed the first orchestra on the North-East Coast of Tasmania and they played many local events and dances.
Ms Heazlewood-Foster is in the process of having her family history digitised so it can be accessed by members of the public.
“I want it to be out there, not shut in the back room where no one can read it. It’s got to be shared,” she said.
“Same with photos – I get six copies at a time and send them to whoever wants them because it must be shared and kept alive.
“I’ve been collecting family history for most of my life and I suppose it’s because my dad kept things of my mother’s (she died when I was just 15 months old) for my brother and I so we had things to remember her by.”
Ms Heazlewood-Forster said her advice to people who don’t know much about their family history is to start with writing down what they know.
“We’ve all got a history and a story to tell. You can start to write details from your lifetime: when you were born, who your parents, grandparents and great grandparents were.
“Start with that and then you can write what your first memories are of your family members, what you did at school, who your school teachers were, and you document all that and you go through life keeping note of what you do, where you travel and so forth, by the time if you get to 80 or 90 if you’re lucky enough, you have got a wonderful document of family history.”

End of an era for Anabel’s

• Outgoing owners of Anabel’s Sean and Andrea Blake reflect on almost 40 years in the business.

• Vera Clarice ‘Clarissa’ Dinham standing outside her home, which is now a National Trust-listed house and garden, known as Anabel’s of Scottsdale.

By Daisy Baker
12 December, 2018

LONG-TIME owners of Anabel’s of Scottsdale, Andrea and Sean Blake, who turned the historical family home into a successful restaurant and accommodation service, have sold the property.
The National Trust-listed home and garden and was built by Mrs Blake’s grandparents, the Dinhams, at the turn of the century when they got engaged.
George Melvin Dinham and his wife Vera Clarice, better known as Clarissa, raised their three children in the house.
Mrs Blake said her grandfather was considered to have “keen business acumen”, with several shops in Scottsdale, including a produce store, a grocery and drapery store in King Street, and a hardware store.
“He virtually kept the whole town in groceries – he had groceries downstairs and women’s clothing upstairs,” she said.
“However after the war when the Depression came, he went into receivership as he had lots of unpaid accounts from people around town at his various stores.
“Then my grandmother ended up with no money to live on so she decided to rent out two or three of the rooms to school teachers and that’s how she kept going.”
Mr Blake moved to Tasmania in the mid 1960s, coming to Scottsdale in 1966.
“My first memory [of Anabel’s] was when I came here looking for accommodation, and that was when Andrea’s grandmother had it, after hearing she had rooms up for rent,” Mr Blake said.
“[Clarissa] was a real lady – she would always get dressed up to go up the street and do her shopping with her basket.”
Years later when Mrs Dinham passed away, the property was left to Mrs Blake and her mother June.
Neither of them wanted to live there, but Mr and Mrs Blake felt they had a duty to preserve it as a part of local history.
“We decided we had to do something with it and I suggested an a la carte restaurant and function centre, as there wasn't anything like that here at the time,” he said.
“It was a huge commitment financially, physically and mentally.
“We both had full time jobs, and had three women’s clothing stores, Andrea’s Boutique in Scottsdale, Bridport and St Helens, so we needed it to be self-sustaining.”
The Blakes took over in 1981, and they named it Clarissa’s in memory of Mrs Blake’s grandmother.
The premises needed substantial renovations and maintenance, which were done over six months by the late Scott Dobson.
Mrs Blake said after advertising in the Sydney Morning Herald, they attracted a number of applications for someone to run Clarissa’s, among them a German and Dutch couple that moved to Tasmania and managed the business for five years.
When the managers departed the business, it was renamed Anabel’s after Sean and Andrea’s daughter.
The restaurant was frequented by Simplot employees who suggested the Blakes build accommodation, as they wanted not only first-class dining but also somewhere to stay.
“So we built on accommodation in early 90s and the units were very successful and were booked out most of the time from when they opened,” Mrs Blake said.
“Both the accommodation and restaurant have been really successful and we are very fortunate to have had many great staff, some of them with us for most of our time.
“We’ve both got to the age where we need a rest so decided to sell the business, and while we didn’t have anyone in our family who really wanted to take it on so we’re really happy that Nadine and Stephen, a couple who love gardens and old houses have bought it and will be able to continue it for years to come.”
She said they have made some fond memories over the years and have been part of many people’s special occasions.
“Over the years we helped several people propose, hiding rings under napkins,” Mrs Blake said.
“We had a couple come and visit recently who got engaged at Anabel’s and came back to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, which was really lovely.”
Reflecting on almost 40 years in business, Mr Blake said: “We met a lot of interesting people and had good times but it was also lots of hard work.”
The couple are planning a trip to Paris in 2019, to visit their son Patrick who works in the embassy.