Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kelly's Trousers

Kelly's Steps are a reasonably famous olde time feature of Hobart, connecting the rabbit-warren streets of Battery Point to Salamanca Place. They are named after whaler, harbourmaster and explorer Captain James Kelly. I just learned that his brother-in-law was eaten by Maoris, after which he killed a number in reprisal.

He came to mind because I was reading an old newspaper article from 1987 written by Christopher Koch, who wrote The Year of Living Dangerously, Highways to a War and Out of Ireland among other things. He grew up here. He says of Battery Point;
It used to be 'bad', in my Depression infancy: a district of grim old poverty, it's cottages built for dwarfs. Now its an expansive historical filmset, full of tasteful paint and coach lamps: a real-estate man's dream. Here are the stone steps built especially for that Homeric whaling master, Captain James Kelly, whose trousers, in response to a bet, were proved to hold five bushels of wheat. Kelly's Steps take me down from the ridge on Salamanca Place as they once took him: and here is Hobart of the 1840s.
I have just added the bit about his capacious pants to his Wikipedia entry. Heavens, sometimes the 21st Century is just so much fun.

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