Monday, April 20, 2015

New Norfolk

Photo © Annette Bailey via Twitter, actually taken yesterday.
Elf suggested we take the last day of the school holidays and drive up to New Norfolk. This area, the Derwent Valley, is famous for its beautiful autumn colours. Some say they are best in May, but the poplars were terrific today.

On the drive up (stunning day, lovely reflections on the river) we were just coming up the last hill into New Norfolk when a family of turkeys wandered out of the swamp by the highway and I had to stomp the brakes to just miss cleaning up the last one.

On the other side of New Norfolk I took us off up a winding hilly road that promised to take us to Rosegarland, my vote for the loveliest name in Tasmania. We ended up at a dizzy elevation with a choice of three narrow dirt roads and a sign saying ALL DOGS WILL BE SHOT. We turned around.

On the way up we had passed a bus-turned-into-a-shed so although we didn't get to Rosegarland at least we got another look at that.

I have an admission; despite living in southern Tasmania since 1986 and hearing a great deal about Willow Court Asylum, I had never been there until today. I thought it was over by the old Royal Derwent Hospital, and that I had just never quite found the right spooky dead end road. In fact it's close to town, and a new Woolies has been built on what used to be the Willow Court football ground. 

I am going to go back and have a better look one day and also document some other buildings and footy history in the area.

Administration building, Willow Court
We parked near Willow Court where a small daggy market was underway, not intending to go to it but just to go for a walk along the river there. When we came back I ducked up to take one photo of the 1930s red brick admin building, and a man named Mr Garwood carrying a Woolies bag came over to talk.

I hadn't been thinking of it at all, but as he was telling me about the bad old days the penny dropped; my grandfather's twin brothers were here. When they were about 6 or 8, one of them was kicked in the head by a horse. He was never the same and sadly the other twin also lost his faculties, and they were committed together.

My Grandfather was nicknamed Didds. He was the youngest of 11. My Dad told me that he and his sister would go up to New Norfolk with Didds when he went to visit his brothers in at Willow Court, but they had to stay outside and play in the park.

The buildings on the very large site are a mixture of different eras. The barracks here is older than Port Arthur, Mr Garwood said. He remembers the screams and moans of inmates drifting across the town as people went about their business. When I was little in Burnie (oblivious to the family connection) we would joke about people being sent to New Norfolk to the funny farm. It's a stigma that has stayed with the town.

While I was stuck talking to Mr Garwood, who had a lot to tell me, the family had decided they might as well go and look at the market. The daggy bits we had seen outdoors were just a small part of the market which was largely indoors. I bought an old footy book for $8 and Elf got some lemon butter.

Then we drove around for a while, and then came back to the Bush Inn for lunch. Old fashioned fried everything counter meals. The waitresses in their 60s, most of the diners in their 70s. There is a lovely old fashioned Tasmanian way of speaking that is really warm, lacking in the grammar department but that just makes it warmer. Our waitress said "OK darl, alright love, and now I'll get you yer knives and forks and that". 

I was wearing my Bones McGhie t-shirt. The way in and out of the dining room was via a tiny public bar, squeezing past a few standing drinkers around an open fire. As I approached, a man eyeballed me without stopping his conversation, then when I reached him he said " Ah, it's good to see some fuckin' decent colours around here at last eh?"

1 comment:

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