Beswicks of North East Tasmania

Chapter 4 of The Family of Thomas and Mary Beswick, 1992, revised 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004

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The beginning of the family of Thomas II and Catherine was described in the previous chapter. We saw how they were married early in 1862 at Westbury when Catherine was sixteen (on her correct date of birth see Mary Ann's Tattoo and Catherine's namesake.) and how they lived at the old family farm at Patterson Plains when their first two children, Richard and Ada, were born. Then Blanche, Catherine and Amy were born while they were back at Adelphi between 1865 and 1868. The old Beswick family of Thomas I and Mary was still there, at least for a time. So too were other relatives including the recently married Jane and John Harris. Mary Ann and Martin Hardy who had been in the area until 1865 moved to the North East during this period and settled at Scottsdale. Other members of the family were soon to follow as new land was being opened up in an area that had been completely unknown while settlement had extended from around Launceston and along the North West Coast over the preceding fifty years.

Evans' map published in 1822 shows a few blocks of land that had been taken up along what he called the `Western River', i.e. the Meander.  Fenton writing in his `Bush Life in Tasmania' of the frontier development in the Devonport and Fourth districts in the 1840s referred to Westbury as the principal centre from which services were available and as the location of the nearest magistrate - a matter of importance where one was dealing with convicts.  By the time Thomas Beswick purchased land at Adelphi in 1855 the Westbury district was quite well developed.(1)  Where Thomas Beswick and the others we know were located around Oaks or Adelphi, large landholders with original crown grants were selling farming blocks or leasing to tenant farmers.  It must have been difficult for newcomers to break in and make a sufficient profit to become established.  We have seen how Thomas I eventually had to sell.  At the same time in the 1860s a completely new and very fertile farming district was being opened up in the North East.  Many of the new settlers of Scottsdale came from the Longford and Westbury districts.

When the surveyor James Scott undertook his famous journey in 1852 settlers had taken up some land along the coast, but the interior of the North East was completely unknown.  Much of it was mountainous.  The forests were exceedingly dense.  Scott's party went from the valley of the North Esk directly over the top of Mt. Maurice aiming for Waterhouse station on the coast.  On the descent from the high country he came into the head waters of the Ringarooma River and following the river he travelled through what was to become a rich farming district.  On a second trip he returned with his nephew and they each selected a large farming property which they later developed.  His was named Legerwood and his nephew's, Branxholm.  He cut a bridal track through to Legerwood in 1853.  Either on his return from the coast on the first journey or later, he went through the fertile lands of Scottsdale.  The first settlers, however, did not begin clearing the enormous trees and dense undergrowth of `Scotts New Country', as it was called, until between five and ten years later.(2)

Closer settlement took place from about 1863 and new land was still being selected at Scottsdale five years after that.  The manner of travel and settlement can be illustrated by reference to one of the families whose granddaughter married a grandson of Thomas Beswick II.(3) James Jessup and his son Alfred went there from Liffey in the Westbury district. He camped on the bank of the Brid River at Springfield on the night of 16 May 1867; the next summer James went back again and recorded in his diary for 2 January 1868, `Alfred went to Scottsdale [from Liffey] via Longford'.  He himself came from Melbourne, and with his other son Walter went to join Alfred.  Following the normal route they avoided the mountains and kept to low coastal country for this was before a track was cut over the Sideling.  Going from Launceston they stopped the first night, the 18th January 1868, at Pipers River, the next the 19th at Brewers Bowood, then he wrote, `20.  To Scottsdale, arrived at Mr Briggs at 1pm.  21.  Went to look at Land in Springfield.  Jany 22.  Selected 100 acres at Scottsdale'.

James Jessup who had come from Norfolk in 1856 and was living in Melbourne where he worked for the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Fitzroy established two of his sons on the land at Springfield and West Scottsdale. Their hard working solid family, devoutly Christian lives and loyalty to their traditions were typical of many in the new community that was developing in the bush clearings over the next generation.

A visitor's note, recorded in The Examiner of 1865, describes the early settlement: 

In the township at Scottsdale we saw numerous cosy, neat cottages with their fruit trees and flower gardens in front.  There are five or six hundred inhabitants.  There is a schoolmaster under a Board of Education, a chapel, the post-office and a corn mill is just being completed.  There is neither police station nor public house but the people appear to get on harmoniously without them.

It was a time when it was said that if a man left a fig of tobacco on another man's gate post for someone to pick up you could depend upon it that it would remain there until the one for whom it was intended came along to collect it. But they were only one generation removed from the old convict community. The pioneers did include many families like the Jessups but there were many of very different backgrounds like those of Thomas and Catherine Beswick.

As we have already been considering, it was not only the presence of free settlers with different values that gave rise to a decent society. In this chapter we will see something of the change that took place from the early period of the lives of Catherine and Thomas Beswick still in the old convict community to the last period at Derby. The point can be sharpened by asking what future you might expect of a child whose grandfathers were both condemned to death, and whose grandmothers were a convict prostitute and the daughter of a convict; such were the grandparents of my grandfather Richard Thomas Beswick whose illiterate young mother had been separated from her mother as an infant and whose father was in gaol when she got pregnant while living in the house of ex-convict friends. Are these not the conditions in which delinquency is supposed to develop rather than to end? Such were the conditions under which my grandfather was born, yet the wholesome and happy old `Claremont' home which is described by Richard Gandy in Chapter 6 was the home he and his wife established.

When I introduced Richard's mother, Catherine, in the previous chapter I did not describe the unsavoury background and none too attractive characters of her parents. It is necessary to see her in this context to fully understand what it meant for her family to develop as it did; so let us go back to pick up those threads.


New Evidence

New information has come to hand which disproves the previous account of my great grandmother Catherine's birth and the identity of her mother which was given in the 1992 history. The some paragraphs from the previous section on Mary Ann Clarke have been removed and others revised. More will be written later based on the new information. See below. For report on a 2004 visit to Mary Ann's original home in Ireland see Dromore and more on Mary Ann

I have also found good evidence of the family of origin of Henry Peever in Birmingham see Henry Peever's Family of Origin. The previous suggestion of what may be the family of origin of Edward (Henry) Peever in England [DB 12 May 1999] is now known to be wrong. [DB 1997, 2001, 2004].

Mary Ann Clarke/Ray: the mother of Catherine Clarke/Peever

We have finally identified the mother of Catherine Clarke or Peever who married Thomas Beswick at Westbury on 1 March 1862. Catherine's mother was Mary Ann Clarke who was born at Dromore, County Down, Ireland, 3 December 1823, the daughter of Hamilton Clarke and Anne Craig.

She was known as Mary Ann Ray, aged 17, when she was convicted at Liverpool Lancaster QS on 25 October 1841 of stealing, after three prior convictions, and sentenced to be transported, apparently for 15 years which was later reduced to 10 years. She arrived in Van Deiman's Land on the Emma Eugenia on 9 April 1842, aged 18, and her convict records were kept in the name of Mary Ann or Ann Mary Ray. She was placed as an assigned servant with several different colonists in the North and South of Tasmania, including William Saltmarsh at Longford in 1844, and sentenced for various further offenses on 15 occasions, serving about half her time in prison between 1842 and 1848.

She gave birth to Catherine in the Female House of Correction, Launceston, on 19 June 1845. The birth was reported by the superintendent of the prison and registered without a name for the child and without any name for the father, but the child's baptism appears in the register of the Catholic Church of the Apostles, Launceston, on 6 July 1845 : child's name, Catherine; mother's name Marianne Ray; and the father's name Henry Pevor. After the completion of her 10 years sentence in 1851 she resumed the name Clarke: in 1852 she had a child whose parents were named in the birth registration as Mary Ann Clarke and John Anderson; and she married John Anderson as Mary Ann Clarke in 1853. She had at least one other child by John Anderson and died of 'senility' in a Launceston institution, the Invalid Depot, as Mary Ann Anderson in 1888, aged 64.

In my report Tasmanian Roots for family members in 1986 I mistakenly identified her as the convict Mary Ann Clarke who arrived on the Garland Grove, who had a very similar record and also lived in the same area at Longford. That mistake was repeated in the history written for the family reunion in 1992, the Family of Thomas and Mary Beswick, of which revised chapters were published later on this site, but the error was demonstrated in 1999 when the baptism of Catherine came to light in the register of the Church of the Apostles in the Archives in Hobart, and I also found that Mary Ann Clarke of the Garland Grove had married someone else in Longford and so was not the Mary Ann Clarke who married John Anderson as the mother of Catherine was reported to have done.

The convict Mary Ann Ray was identified as the child Mary Ann Clarke born in Dromore, Ireland, from the birth in the same parish as a man named John Ray whose name was tattooed on her right arm according to her physical description in the convict records. How that was discovered and how the evidence of Catherine's baptism was interpreted is told in the linked documents: Mary Ann's Tattoo, A note on Mary Ann Ray and Clarke=Ray=Clarke. See also the convict conduct record of Mary Ann Ray and Catherine's namesake. An updated report on her background at Dromore is now posted from new research in 2004, see Dromore and more on Mary Ann.

It was when Mary Ann was assigned as a servant to William Saltmarsh in Longford that she became pregnant to Henry Peever. We do not know exactly how they met, but it is known that Henry Peever was a friend of Richard Jordan who was a half brother of Saltmarsh, both being sons of Mary Butler born on Norfolk Island the story of whose arrest in London is told in Chapter 1. It is most likely that it was when Mary Ann was serving her six months sentence in Hobart in 1848 that Henry took the infant. Catherine would have been 2-3 years old at the time. He brought her up with the help of the Jordan family, according to the tradition passed on in both families. Mary Ann appears to have had no further connection with her daughter Catherine, but as noted above we have documented her marriage with John Anderson in 1853 and death in a Launceston institution in 1888 (9) and her identity must have been known at the old Florence Vale homestead at Derby sufficiently for Catherine's eldest grandchild Thora Bottcher to learn enough to pass on a few clues to later generations in spite of the fact that she also tried to cover up the convict origins.

Henry Peever

Edward or Henry Peever (the father of Mary Ann Clarke's/Ray's daughter Catherine who married Thomas Beswick II) was convicted of burglary at Worcester on 5 March 1831 and arrived at VDL on the `Lord Lyndoch', 18 Nov. 1831.(10)  On 26 July 1830, according to his trial record in England, with three others he had broken into a house and stolen a considerable quantity of food and clothing.  A newspaper report of his trail reveals that he and his friends in crime came from Birmingham. Vital family records have been found there. See Henry Peever's Family of Origin. Like young Thomas I he too was sentenced to be hanged, but was reprieved and transported for life.(11) He was granted Conditional Pardon No. 909 on 24 November 1842 which was extended to the Australian colonies 9 Feb. 1847.  That is, he was able to live as a free man but not permitted to return to Britain. He was, however convicted of stealing a hay fork in April 1861 and sentenced to 12 months goal. He was in goal at Port Arthur when his daughter Catherine was married early in 1862.

The physical description of Henry Peever in the convict records is more detailed than that of Thomas Beswick, but lacks the vital information on his place of birth.  There are several points of significance:  he was only 16 years old and quite short at 4 feet and 11 and a half.  He probably grew some more, but he seems from a photograph we have of him in his sixties to have been a small man.  He was described as a labouring boy and so lacked any specific training.  A reference to his forehead projecting is clearly confirmed in the later photograph, and Dorothy Russell his great-granddaughter pointed out that she too has this same feature.  He was `marked E.P. on right arm':  presumably a tattoo of his initials, but his name was given as Henry without any suggestion of `Edward' being used in these records.  Both names appear in his later family records as noted in Chapter 3.

Old Henry himself is said to have lived at `Florence Vale', Derby, with Catherine and Thomas, at least some of the time in his old age, and thus to have kept close contact with his illegitimate daughter, Catherine; and Catherine too kept in touch with her half brothers and sisters of the Peever Family.(12)  His death is registered as having occurred in the Launceston District on 12 September 1890.  According to the newspaper report he died in at the Launceston General Hospital, but his place was at Florence Vale, Derby. The photograph we have was apparently taken in 1882 when he was 67.


The precise circumstances of the move to Scottsdale are not known, but knowledge of the new land would have been attractive to many and it was widely shared in the Longford-Westbury area from which many new settlers came. Within the Beswick family it coincided with the time of adjustment after Thomas I lost all his property except for his interest in the trust property at Patterson Plains. It appears that the Hardys went there first, perhaps in 1865.(13) Their movement forms part of a common pattern in the lives of the pioneers.  Whatever the trigger for particular moves there was a form of chain migration of related and unrelated people who knew each other in the old district and moved in succession to the new districts.

There was surely some kind of co-operative relationship between the old family and the younger generation in their farming activities at Patterson Plains, Adelphi and Scottsdale.  We could make guesses as to who went where, when and why.  For example, it may be that when Samuel I arrived with his wife and daughter in say 1855 he lived at Patterson Plains for a few years before going to Cressy, while Thomas I and the Hardys established the Adelphi farm; perhaps 16-year-old young Thomas stayed to help the Londoner run the farm, and when the Hardys moved to Scottsdale ten years later, Thomas and Catherine went to their place at Adelphi.  There are many possibilities, but in 1868 some dramatic changes were taking place by virtue of a family tragedy.  On 7 January 1868, when Mary Ann Hardy was pregnant with their eighth child, Martin Hardy committed suicide.(14)

It would be surprising if support for Mary Ann Hardy, who always remained close to the original Beswick family, did not play a part in the move to Scottsdale which saw Thomas and Catherine there in 1869, Charlotte's marriage to Alexander James in the same year and young Sam also making his presence known within a year or so. Did Mary go to assist her eldest daughter accompanied by her two youngest children? Did Charlotte stay to help and meet her husband? Rosetta Charlotte Elizabeth Hardy was born 28 May 1868.

On 7 Feb. 1869 Rosetta Elizabeth was baptised at the home of Thomas Beswick, Scottsdale.(15) Charlotte was married at the home of Thomas Beswick at Scottsdale on 3 March 1969. Thomas and Catherine's sixth child, Florence, was born at Scottsdale, 16 November 1869.  (They had been at Adelphi when Amy was born 12 April 1868.) Thomas II was the proprietor of the `Dogwood Tavern', the first hotel at Scottsdale, where Lords Hotel now stands, and history books report travellers accounts of it from about 1870.  Walch's Almanac of 1871, reported that,

The first clearings in the Scottsdale settlement appear a mile beyond the Brid, and then continue, in various degrees of cultivation, for five miles, when at Tucker's Corner nearly 40 miles from Launceston, we find a small inn, the Dogwood Tavern.

When the `Dogwood Tavern' was about to be opened, there was some organized opposition and I would not be surprised if the Jessups had some part in it.(16)  In `Scotts New Country' we read,

It was arranged that a meeting should be held at the house of a particular settler to enumerate and prepare objections to the sale of "demon drink", but apparently there was a traitor in the camp.  Misleading information was given to the prospective objectors and they went to the wrong house.  Opposition to the hotel was abandoned with the result that the Dogwood Tavern, first kept by Thomas Beswick, came into existence.

Thomas had a way of making his presence known.  The first horse race meeting was held at Bridport on a Boxing Day, about 1870.  Everyone went to Bridport on Boxing Day each year from about 1870, even the newly weds Alfred and Annie Jessup, for Alfred recorded cryptically Dec. 26, 1871, `Annie and Self went to Bridport'.  (It was said to have been about the only holiday from work people took then.)  Loone says,

Several horses competed in the race, the favourite mares were Thomas Beswick's little bay mare Topsy, and James Bonser's grey mare Cis.  The latter, which was of Arab breed was very fleet of foot, but the story goes that a few days before the race just to equalize things a bit, someone drew a few pints of blood from Cis.  This meant that when the race came off Cis could only secure second place.  This story may not be true.  At any rate, Beswick's bay mare won the race in really good style. 

Well, he always had an eye for a fine horse, they say, even that he was a great horseman and always had the best, but did he bring, besides the `demon drink', a little of the old corruption to the virgin territory? 

Besides the `Dogwood Tavern' we know of other initiatives in the short time at Scottsdale.  Loone says `Thomas Beswick had the second three horse threshing machine, which he shortly sold to James Shearer.  Shearer used this for a number of years doing the farmers' work'.  Then although Loone and MacFarlane both say Samuel developed the coach service from Scottsdale to Launceston, the family tradition is that it was Thomas who had the coaches built and that young Sam at first drove for him.(17) Loone says

As soon as the road was widened to a cart road Beswick had a thorough brace coach built (leather springs), and started carrying passengers as well as the Royal Mail.  Beswick's coach, which was built to carry eight passengers and the driver, cost him 75 pounds'. 

Young Sam, who later became the Coach proprietor, figures in a story from an earlier time told by Loone. It concerns the event `Catching the greasy pig' at the first sports meeting to be held at Scottsdale,

... a lad named Samuel Beswick fell down upon his hands and knees and took the short stump of the pig's tail between his teeth and held the pig, he was awarded the prize ... Before that day's sport closed, Sam Beswick had sold his pig for 14 shillings.

Obviously, our Sam was a man of tenacity, literally, and of enterprise, as shown later by his business activities.  The sports meeting would have been about 1869/70, when Sam was 15 or 16.  His sister Charlotte was three years older. It was about the time when she married Alex James, who later drove coaches for Samuel long after the enterprising Thomas had moved on.

It was Sam who stayed in Scottsdale (as well as Charlotte and Mary Ann) and when he eventually sold out to Loone and Bonner, he had 28 horses and was running one coach each way daily.  His stables were at the corner of Cameron and George Streets.  He had married Ada Kerr, 13 June 1881, and in that year he is recorded in the program of the first Scottsdale Show as donating a special prize for the `Best buggy and horse'.(18)  He seems to have been doing well, but Loone tells how his competitors undercut his prices and how he eventually sold the business.  He does not tell us the date, but there is a photograph of Loone and Bonner's coach in 1887 published in his book.  We have independent evidence that things went badly wrong for Samuel at about that time.

Alexander Mackenzie's land that was inherited by Mary in 1819 and placed in trust in 1854 was passed to Samuel Mackenzie Beswick, 27 June 1888, as part of arrangements certified by the bankruptcy court:  the deed concludes that `the affairs of the said Samuel McK Beswick should be liquidated by arrangement and not in bankruptcy'.  Justice Rumpff was appointed trustee.  Thomas Beswick `of Brothers Home' and his sisters agreed to sell their interest in the Patterson Plains property.(19) Sam sold the Patterson Plains property in 1889 and went to the mainland, probably to the Warrnambool district, where some of the Kerrs, his wife's brother's family were living. His widow was living there later before she was taken to Western Australia by Maggie Young.(20)

Meanwhile Thomas and family moved several times and he tried several more occupations before settling down as a farmer at Derby.


After only two or three years at Scottsdale, Thomas and Catherine moved to Lefroy where their second son, and seventh child, was born 23 July 1871. They named him Thomas, recovering something of the tradition of naming that was broken when their first was named Richard. We have called this Thomas, Thomas III. Lefroy was the site of a gold rush with many miners camped in the bush. Thomas II might have done some mining himself(21), but that was not his normal way of life. He was more of an entrepreneur and quickly saw the profit to be made by providing services to the miners. At Lefroy he had a bakery.(22) It is likely that he was also engaged in carting supplies.

The gold at Lefroy did not retain the interest of a large number of miners for very long, and Thomas soon moved his family to a richer mining area at Mathinna where they remained for several years. While they were at Mathinna three more children were born. Angelina Mathinna was born there on 3 August 1873. Angie's second name is interesting: not only was it the name of the place but the place was named after an Aboriginal girl; we do not know what significance that had for them. There is nothing in the family tradition we have received concerning their attitudes to Tasmanian Aboriginal people, but we know now that Thomas I was with Anthony Cottrell when he had conflicts with them, and that Cottrell captured some and later worked for the "Friendly Mission"[see NEW ARTICLE ON COTTRELL]. Ethel Amanda was born 19 October 1875 at Mathinna and died when she was three months old.(23) Thomas was recorded then as a miner. He is remembered as having a general business at Mathinna.

There was a period when he drove a team of bullocks with a wagon into Launceston; he would say, `I'm none of your ordinary common bullock drivers, I'm an oxen conductor'.  On one occasion when someone was playing ghost, frightening travellers along the road to Launceston, he reached a certain point near dark and the local people said to him, "You are not going on tonight are you? What about the ghost?" "I'll give him ghost", he said, and when the ghost came out he took to him with his bullock whip handle and beat him up so badly that he had to put him on his load and take him into town to the hospital.

By the time Grace Miriam at was born at Mathinna, 18 July 1877, Thomas was already at another new mining site, Derby, then called Brothers Home, where he was establishing a business and preparing for the family to join him. However, things might have been very different.

While at Mathinna they almost moved to New Zealand.  The earliest photograph of the family we have was taken in Melbourne when Catherine and the children were staying with Sarah McIver, probably in the winter of 1876. It shows Ada, Blanche, Amy, Catherine, Florence and Thomas.  Apparently Richard would not go in it because `the girls showed their pants' - so I'm told.(24)  They really do look funny.  The girls were wearing rather full frilly dresses which were a little shorter than their pants. It was taken in Melbourne while they were waiting to join Thomas who had gone to a gold mining area on the West coast of New Zealand.  While he was lying in bed recovering from an accident to his leg he thought of the danger of landing his family by cable from a ship off shore where there was no harbour, and decided to send them word not to come.(25) I wonder what kind of history would have been written if the move to New Zealand had been completed. 

Thomas and his eldest son Richard left Mathinna for Derby (Brothers Home) late in 1876,(26) about 2 months after the Krushka brothers registered their claim to the tin mine which proved to be one of the richest in the world.  They arrived on New Years Day 1877.  Thomas appears to have had a general business supplying the miners. Young Richard was remembered as the first boy at Derby. He carried the mail to Branxholm.

Grace was a baby when the family came by the pack horse track over mountains from Mathinna later in 1877.  She was being fed on goats milk and her father put the goat's kid on the front of his saddle and when the nanny lagged behind he would pinch its ear to make her hurry. Imagine this family coming along the lonely track over the high plains across the heath land with the rugged top of Mt. Victoria on their right and Mt. Saddleback and Ben Nevis close at hand on the left. As they came up the valley from Mathinna the great rocky cliffs of Mt. Saddleback would have towered above them. From the high country above the valley where the town of Ringarooma later developed, they would have looked out over many miles of largely untouched forest two to three thousand of feet below and out over the coastal plains to the sea where Flinders and Cape Barren Islands are visible. There were nine children and the parents were still only in their early to mid thirties. Besides the goat, they had some horses and few a possessions with them, enough to manage for the time being as they lived in a camp. Their furniture was taken by boat around the coast to the small port of Boobyalla at the mouth of the Ringarooma river.(27)

Thomas had a general business in the town at first and then took up land which was to become `Florence Vale', the home of Catherine and Thomas for the remainder of his life and all but the last year of so of hers. At Derby their family was completed with the birth of four more children of whom three died: Arabella Victoria Maud born 29 July 1879 at Derby and died 11 January 1880, Maud Ethel b. 14 June 1881 at Scottsdale but when they were living at Derby, and finally the two boys who were born and died at Derby: Darcy William b. 18 June 1882, d. 25 February 1883, and Colin Mackenzie b. 23 July 1886 and d. 22 Jan. 1887.  The last of them is said to have been buried on Florence Vale (I have a vague memory of something like a fence around a grave to the left of the gate at the foot of the last rise as you approach the house, not far from where the windmill was, on the old original track from Derby). Catherine had fourteen children altogether and ten of them grew up.


Thomas Beswick was one of the first to take up land at Derby. Approval to purchase 242 acres which became `Florence Vale' was given 29 December 1880. It was a condition of the sale under the Waste Lands Act that the purchaser reside on the land until the full price was paid.(28) For a few years,(29) they lived on the South West corner of the land at the foot of the steep hill by the river close to where the creek in `Claremont' that flows along the Western boundary of Florence Vale reaches the Ringarooma River. It was across the river from where the old Derby Recreation Ground was located at the bottom end of town, and near where there is now an embankment which diverts the river to the right away from the last part of the mine to be worked at the end of the Second World War. There were still a few houses in that area on the left bank of the river in photographs taken around 1900. Surrounded by hills and shaded from the Northern sky, it is still a cool damp place and would have been an unhealthy place to live in fairly primitive housing. It must have been a great relief to move up to the top of the hill about half a mile away where the bush was being cleared and some paddocks were cultivated.

When we think of it the name `Florence Vale' is puzzling, why a vale when it is on a hill? If we look at the hill from the town and see where the original house was by the river, at the bottom the steep sided valley through which the creek from `Joey's Dam' reached the Ringarooma River it is not quite so strange. Perhaps a bigger puzzle is why one of the eight daughters of the family is remembered in the name `Florence Vale', why her? Those who remember her say she was a very nice person, but what would the others have thought? Or, was that intended at all? Could both the girl and farm have been named after someone else? However it came about the name `Florence Vale' became a point of reference for future generations.(30)

The house by the river when they first lived there would have been on the edge of very dense wet forest, with much rain forest vegetation in the valley, and eucalyptus forest which extended up the steep hill and for many miles across what is now well cultivated farm land. Tasmanian tigers or thylacines were still common enough to be a nuisance to settlers in remote areas, raiding their farmyards, especially to take poultry. This gave rise to one of our family treasures, the `tiger story', which has been passed on to many of us in various ways. Here it is as told in the `Derby Echo' by Tom Williams, whose mother figures in the story:

When the Beswick family first took up land at Derby, in the 1880s, they lived in a house on the northern side of the Ringarooma River, about opposite the present picnic reserve.

One day, some of the children, including Blanche, Florence and Tom Beswick, went to the fowl house to collect eggs and found what they thought was a funny-coloured dog in there. They thought it was pretty, so one of them stood at the door of the fowl house to prevent its escape while the others tried to catch it. However it dived between the legs of the one at the door and started to run up the hill away from the house.

Because its front legs were longer than its back legs it was only able to move slowly up the hill and the children were able to catch up with it. Being caught and harassed in this way, it became nasty and turned on its pursuers. It reared up on its hind legs and had its front paws on Florence's shoulders when Tom stunned it with a blow from a large stone to the side of the head.

They then killed the animal with more stones and sticks, and dragged it home, where it was later identified by the children's father, Thomas Beswick (Snr.) as a Tasmanian Tiger.

Thomas and Catherine are remembered by the keepers of the family tradition as great pioneers, respected both as individuals and for their achievements in the first settlements which opened up the virgin bush of North East Tasmania. The new house that Thomas built on the top of the hill was a much loved as a place of charm and hospitality. Ila Beswick wrote(31) `Grandma (Catherine) must have been well trained by the people she lived with for she kept the standard very high.' We do not know where those standards came from, but it is suggested that Mrs. Jordan was the source. Thora Burton(32) remembered floors `scrubbed white', a well laid dining table with two cruets on it and afternoon entertainment different from the experience of later generations: `They did not have afternoon tea; they had wine and cakes; Grandma made her own wine; there were no cream cakes, only plain cake and fruit cake.' She remembered a kitchen with bins around the sides filled with cakes and things, and described the long verandah and bedrooms that opened one onto another.

Doss Ranson, another granddaughter, when she was 90 years old recalled Catherine with warmth. `Ah, Grandma', she said, `Grandma was a lovely person.  I liked her very much.'  She told how her Grandma used to call for her when she was a little girl and take her driving with her cob pony called `Fan', and of how, before she started school about 1900 she took her over the hills to Mathinna to visit `Aunt Amy'.  She also referred to Thomas II:  `Grandad was on lots of committees and often going to meetings of trusts and things.  He was something of a wild one.'  She mentioned that he drank quite a bit and would drive a lively horse hard.  `He was a real leader, always active, in the thick of things.'(33)

Thora also remembered her grandfather as a great horseman, a public figure and as one `who was an entirely different man when he had a few drinks'. People remembered different pairs of good riding horses he had at different times: one pair known as `grey Peter' and `bay Peter' were jumpers with which he is said to have been able to jump over any gate on the farm. He is said to have had quite a bad temper and sometimes when things went badly he would drive his horses harnessed to a buggy at a gallop down the rough track/road from the house toward the mine and main road. On one occasion he is supposed to have ridden a horse into the bar of a hotel and called out "Who'll shout for John Bull?" and when no-one would, he turned the horse around and made it kick the counter. Thora says at another time he rode his horse up the stairs of the hotel.

Thomas is remembered attending meetings of the Ringarooma Road Trust, the first local government in the area. It was on such occasions that he `had a few drinks.' He was also a member of the trust which built the first Methodist Church at Derby, although he was not a member of the church. When the first Methodist minister to take services at Derby was approaching the town on horseback another rider came up beside him and pleased to find the isolated settlement receiving attention he invited the preacher to stay at his home. That invitation from Thomas began a tradition of the preachers staying with the Beswicks.(34)

Thomas probably began building his new house on the hill in the early 1880s (Ada Gandy said they moved there from the house "by the riverside" in 1885). Some rooms and extra buildings would have been added around the farmyard over quite a few years as the farm was developed and the younger children grew up. The oldest parts were made of split palings and no doubt, as Ada Gandy says in her account which follows, from timber split on the place. Most of the farm was partially cleared by Thomas II. As I remember it around 1950 when we began to improve it after it was bought by my father, Richard David, there were some paddocks which had been ploughed a very long time before and were grassed with species we no longer sowed, while the majority was still covered with fallen logs, bracken fern and some tree stumps and shrubs, with a limited amount of grass and rough cattle feed. I ploughed some of it for the first time along with old pastures which had probably not been ploughed since the days of my great-grandfather. Clearing and cultivating the remainder was finally completed by my brother John when he was in partnership with my father. Two patches of bush remain: one in the swamp at the top end and the other on the steep slope above the place where the children killed the Tasmanian tiger in the 1880's and wallabies came back in the 1970's. The farm can be said to have recovered something of the order and prosperity that was promised in its early development by Thomas. Apparently it was an impressive and lively place with its many well-stocked outbuildings including a dairy and blacksmiths shop. The eight daughters were supposed to have been a very attractive lot and it must have been quite a social centre until they all married or moved away. We will tell a little of the next generation in the next chapter.

The circumstances of Thomas II's death were not spoken of much in later years and they probably contributed among other things to the teetotal attitudes to liquor in the next generation or two. He died on 22 April, 1905, after falling down the stairs of the Federal Hotel (the `top pub') at Derby. It has been claimed that he had been drinking with his mates in the middle of the day - `carousing', some said. Another account is that he was going upstairs to visit a sick friend, and turned to speak to some children. Both could be true. The Coroner's finding was as follows:

Court House, Derby: 7 jurors found that `Thomas Beswick died on the 22nd day of April, 1905, at his residence Florence Vale, near Derby, and that his death was caused by a fit of apoplexy which may have seized him on the 21st day of April, 1905, when in the act of ascending the stairs of the Federal Hotel, Derby, or immediately after his falling down the stairs of the Federal Hotel on the latter date, and that no person is blameable in the matter.'

Catherine died 30 October, 1908. She was in Launceston at the railway station when she collapsed, as she was travelling back to the North East after staying with relatives, while rooms that were being built for her were completed at `Brookside', the home at Derby of her daughter Blanche and son-in-law Richard Williams. That is the context of the postcard referred to in Chapter 2, dated just a few months before, when she was going to stay with Mrs. Emery and was `quite well'.

Thomas and Catherine are buried at Branxholm with inscriptions "In heaven to part no more" and "Gone but not forgotten".

Thomas died in 1905 without signing his will and his estate was administered for the family by the Tasmanian Permanent Executors and Trustees until it was finally distributed after Florence Vale sold at public auction to Richard David Beswick in 1949. The old house eventually fell into disrepair, especially during some periods when it was empty as the farm received little attention for many years when it was leased. Florence Vale was rented by people named Pitt from 1913 - 1923, then by Bill Rawlings who brought out Jack Shepherd from England in 1928. Jack became a great family friend. It was subsequently leased by Goulds, then a Mr. Brumby from Herrick who had people named Woods living in the house, later by Richard Beswick from `Claremont', who rented it with Dot and Kit Cunningham who were the last people to live there before it housed the Italian prisoners of war who were assigned to work on the farm during the Second Word War.(35) It was last lived in by Dave Mallett and his wife Molly and their young family in the early 1950s. Part of it was later used as a shearing shed for a few years. It is gone now.

This chapter concludes with Ada Gandy's memories of the home of Thomas and Catherine around the turn of the century which she wrote two months before she died in 1976 at the age of 82. There are a few factual errors which we have left, but with corrections in brackets and in the notes, and there are some repetitions of points already reported, but it deserves to come to us as she wrote it.



Ada Beatrice Gandy (1976)

My grandparents, Thomas and Catherine Beswick, were among the earliest settlers on Derby - or what was then known as Brothers Home.

Grandad and my father (14) went from Mathinna, as did the Krushka Brothers, in 1876 and, after Grandad got a home together, he returned to Mathinna and brought Grandma and the children over the hills via Ringarooma and the Cascades, by foot and pack horse. The family at that time were, next to Dick (my father), Ada, Blanche, Kate, Amy, Florrie, Tom, Angie and baby Grace - Maude was born on Derby [registered at Scottsdale(36)], as were two [three(37)] other little ones who died. We have been told that baby Grace was being fed on goat's milk and the old "nanny" was coaxed along on the journey from Mathinna by Grandad, every now and then, pinching the ear of the kid, which he carried on his horse.

They lived in a place - later referred to as "by the riverside"(38) - until they went to the farm in 1885. While on the township Grandad, as far as I know, was never a miner. He carried on a variety of businesses, such as butcher, baker and builder, and was at the same time interested in beginning all sorts of places for the good of the community, such as the school and church.

Florence Vale, situated on the plateau overlooking the town, extended to the (summit of the) hill later extensively mined by the Briseis Coy., who won thousands of tons of tin from underneath the overburden; so many acres of the original farm property (originally 240 acres) were washed away. Grandad was a clever man and could turn his hand to most things. The timber for Florence Vale was split on the farm and he built the house and all the outbuildings.

When they first went to Brothers Home my Dad was employed by the Krushkas as message boy. One of his duties was to `run' over the hills to collect the mail from Scotts' place, Branxholm Estate. He afterwards kept the store for his father but eventually went to work on the mine.

My own first memories of going up to the farm - Florence Vale - were of walking up a steep track near the end of the property; then one came to the `8 acre paddock' which was, I think, the first big paddock put under cultivation; and it was here in later years we saw Grandad demonstrating proudly his new reaper and binder.

Looking back to when I was about 3 years old [1897](39) I recall being taken by Dad and Mum and my sister Ol [Olive] to the opening of the first butter factory in the district. This was out on the Moorina road near the back road turn-off.(40) My aunt Angie, being at the time courted by Fred Rose (who was the first manager of the factory) had the honour of smashing the bottle of champagne. A year or two later Aunt Angie was married to Tom Bennett.

I also remember Auntie Grace's wedding to Uncle Fardon; this was when I was 3 and I remember I wore a red velvet dress with a lace collar. That meant that it left only Auntie Ada and Auntie Maude at home when in 1900 I spent several months on the farm so as to be isolated from home because Ol. was very ill with typhoid fever. Dr. von See was by this time our resident doctor and with the help and devotion of Mum he "pulled her through". It was many years later that the N.E. had its first hospital.

I had already had a year at school before my sojourn at Florence Vale and I well remember doing my lessons while there - slate and pencil of course. Ila was the baby at this time. Auntie Maude was a pupil-teacher for a few years and Auntie Ada was preparing for her wedding which took place late in 1900. This was during the time of the Boer War and the girl who helped in the house taught me to sing "Sons of the sea", "Rule, Britannia", etc. standing on a chair in the kitchen, I guess to amuse her and the young man who worked on the farm. On the night of the Relief of Mafeking there was great jubilation throughout the country and I went with Grandma and the Aunts down to the 8 acre paddock to look down on the bonfires and fireworks on the township.

Dear Auntie Ada was 36 years old when she married "old Tom Weir" - they had been engaged for 18 years! Uncle Tom Beswick I hardly remember, as he went to Western Australia to the gold rush with John Pitchford. I remember him coming home once; then he went back to W.A. and in about 1903 Auntie Maude went over to join him. They made money in hotel businesses.

Now I want to tell about the house and other buildings of Florence Vale. As is often the case with farm-houses, one arrived at the back entrance. The road was an unmetaled one coming in from the Moorina road at the water-trough, about a mile from Derby township. Then about a mile or so up to the house.(41) Grandma and Grandad had planted a few firs and oaks on either side of the road but over the years there were not many left.

One entered the yard through a five-barred gate. On the right there was the wood-heap, then the men's hut (with two bunks, chairs, table and nice big fireplace). Along the next side of the yard was the big well-equipped blacksmith's shop, which was always a delight to us children when Grandad was busy at the anvil, for he shoed the horses himself at that time. Then a short fence with a gate which led "down the path" to the pit-type WC. I remember when at the age of 6 I was a bit scared when I went to it! Another gate near the end of the house opened into the vegetable and small-fruit garden.

The house was on the corner with long back verandah and at the end past dairy, store-room and kitchen, one entered the long, low-ceilinged dining room, the windows of which faced the gate entrance. It was a pleasant, big room and the dining-room table, which Grandad had made to accommodate the large family, had a polished foot-rest down its full length; we children liked to get under the table and sit on it.

There were 4 bedrooms and a sitting room. The house had a frontage of 3 rooms and a passage which opened on to a nice verandah. Three steps led down to the pretty flower garden, mainly remembered by me for the borders of huge dark violets. Down from the front of the house was the orchard. All very lovely. [It was from this direction that a later road from the northern end of the farm gave access to the house, but in those days no-one arriving at the house by road would have seen the `front garden'. DB.]

Further along on this (3rd) side of the farmyard there was an implement, buggy and cart shed. Then to turn to the 4th side, first of all was the gate leading to cowsheds with lots of bails for hand-milking. Grandad had a good sense of humour and at that time his two bulls were named Krongie and Kitchener! The large building on this side comprised at the far end the apple-house and a saddle and harness room adjacent to the stables, then the barn and chaff-cutting place. The chaff cutter was, of course, driven by horse power. Outside there was a circular extension of the chaff cutter with central cogwheels and a rod, which was worked by the two horses (Fan and Bess) harnessed to a long wooden beam where a farm hand sat and drove the horses round and round. This was good entertainment!

Grandma used to drive either Fan or Bess in the chaise cart but I don't remember her driving Grandad's pair of chestnut ponies which he rode or drove in the buggy. At this time the Dowsetts, (Auntie Flo) and the Bottchers (Auntie Kate) lived at Mathinna and Grandma would sometimes drive "over the mount" to visit them. I remember Grandad once had a leg broken when he went into the stable and a horse which was evidently asleep became startled and lashed out. Another time he and his friend Mr. Bomford of Moorina had been up to Weldborough and had been drinking. The chestnut ponies in the buggy were going down the notorious Weld Hill too fast for "old Bomford" and he pulled on the rein and they had an accident. Grandad sustained a broken arm. Grandad's chestnut ponies were Topsy, which he usually rode himself, and Minnie. Auntie Maude was also fond of riding and she used to look very elegant (side-saddle) wearing her nice riding habit and hat; she rode Minnie.

These are a few random memories of Florence Vale at the turn of the century.

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Notes on Chapter 4

1. Another of my great great grandfathers, on my mother's side, James Jessup, left a diary with notes from 1863 about the development of a property at Liffey, further south towards the foot of tiers.  Oddly, on his first night there when he went from Melbourne to set up a house, he stayed with John Jordan, a member of the same family as were associated with the Beswicks.  That was at the fringe of the settled area.

2. For local history of Scottsdale and Ringarooma municipalities see: Scott's New Country, compiled by Eileen Hookway, Jeff Jennings and Phil Page for the Scotts News Country Committee, 1980; As the River Flows, Edited by Geoff Willson, The Ringarooma council, 1987; and Tasmania's North-East: A comprehensive history of North-Eastern Tasmania and its people, by A. W. Loone, 1928, republished by Topographical Arts (Tasmania), 1981.

3. 3. Kathleen Maude Jessup granddaughter of Alfred Jessup married Richard David Beswick at Scottsdale, 1932.

4. 4. There was an error at this point in the 1992 version: see Mary Ann's Tattoo

5. 5. See above

6. 6. See above

7. 7. For the background of convicts who were engaged in juvenile prostitution in England, see Robert Hughes on Bunters and Mollies in The Fatal Shore.

8. 8. The Convict record information from Elaine Dobie.

9. 9. See previous note [4] for details of marriage and death. One other entry in the register of deaths could refer to a daughter of hers from her marriage with John Anderson: Mary Ann Anderson, aged 4 years, labourer's child, died 2 February 1861 at Launceston. According to Richard Gandy's interview of Thora Burton she is supposed to have been related to the Jacobs family of Scottsdale, whether through descent or by marriage we do not know and have not been able to discover any possible links.

10. 10. The ship departed Shearness 25 July 1831.

11. 11. At the Archives in Hobart there are three records on Henry Peever that are of some interest: his convict conduct record, his physical description at the time of his arrival and a list someone else had made from the Baptismal Register of Launceston Wesleyan Church.  The conduct record is difficult to read but what I could make of it includes the following.  He admitted a previous conviction, `Once for stealing Apple - One Month', and the gaol report described his character as bad.  After transportation he was charged in 1834, by a man named Faro who was apparently his master while on assignment, with `trafficking with firewood' for which he was severely admonished.  A few weeks later he was charged with `Insolence and neglect of Duty' from which he was `Discharged and return to his Service'.  He gained a Ticket of Leave on 20 October 1839.  There is a note about a breach of Police authority or some such in Oct. 1842.

12. 12. From Thora Burton's interview taped by D. Hooper.

13. 13. The last certain reference to the Hardys at Oaks is the birth of Joshua Peck Hardy on 24 July 1865, while the first evidence of Thomas II and Catherine being in that area is the birth of Blanche on 17 Sept. 1865 after their being at Patterson Plains when Ada was born in May of the previous year.  Note too that ten years earlier the trust deed of 1854 settling the Patterson Plains property on Samuel I coincided with Mary Ann's marriage, and that the Hardys moved to Oaks soon afterwards with Thomas and Mary being with them the following year. So there was a previous pattern of joint movement.

14. 14. Death registration:  7 January 1868, Martin Hardy, male, 36, farmer, cause of death - temporary insanity (asphyxia from hanging,  Suicidal), Informant - Mary Ann Hardy, widow, Scottsdale.

15. 15. From Dorothy Wright who says it was by a Presbyterian minister on the same day that Mary Ann Hardy married David Jones. The minister was probably Thomas Harris who had a connection with the Methodist Church but was something of a free agent as preacher at the community church used by all denominations in Scottsdale (actually Ellesmere). The marriage to David Jones is a bit of a mystery as there is no further reference to him in family matters and Mary Ann was known later as Mary Hardy.

16. 16. Among the fifty-odd portraits of pioneers that are reproduced in the book `Scotts New Country' are `Mr Thomas Beswick, `Mrs Thomas Beswick', `Mrs Alex James', `Mr James Jessup', `Mrs James Jessup', `Mrs J. McBean, Senior', `Mr T.B. Harris' and `Mrs T.B. Harris'.  I will just note in passing that on the other side of my family Walter Jessup, the son of James, married Jane the daughter of Thomas Brocus Harris.  Mr Harris was the minister at the first chapel, a community church of all denominations at Ellesmere (Scottsdale), and also a part trained medical practitioner who served the first settlers.  James Jessup was sexton of Brunswick St Wesleyan Church in Melbourne.  His other son Alfred and Annie Cummins, a strong churchwoman, were married there by the President of the Wesleyan Conference, and their son Henry, my grandfather was a Methodist local preacher at Scottsdale for over 50 years.

17. 17. From Dorothy Russell who also told me that when she was living at Young NSW she met a man who was especially interested in the history of Australian horse drawn vehicles, and that he knew of Thomas Beswick's thorough brace coaches as they were referred to in a book he had on the subject.  She did not know the title of the book. 

18. 18. See `Scotts New Country'.

19. 19. They agreed to sell for 210 pounds and received 35 pounds each.  Sam mortgaged it to William Clarke Wilson to raise 262 pounds, and in 1889 he sold it to Robert Gardiner in an arrangement which left him 175 pounds after his debts were paid.  I understand there are still Gardiners in the area.

As noted in the previous chapter, the deed of 1888 is interesting in reciting the history and giving the names of the children of Thomas I and Mary and of their spouses, George Newman, John Harris and Alexander James.  Sarah appears only as Mrs McIver without her husband's name and not in the same context as the others.  Mary Ann Hardy appears with that surname and there is no reference to David Jones. (Lila White also calls her Mary Hardy.)  It refers, as I said before, to Thomas Beswick dying `on or about the sixteenth day of January 1877' and notes that Mary Beswick and the trustee Mr W. Hill were also dead.  We know that Mary died 1886 after living her last years at Scottsdale.  Samuel Beswick (I) `of Cressy in Tasmania, farmer', was a party to the agreement as the surviving trustee.

20. See Chapter 5 for details on Maggie Young and the movement of several members of the family to the West. It has been suggested that Sam had had previous experience of driving coaches on the mainland before he began to do so at Scottsdale, but we have no evidence of his being there earlier, nor do we know what he did when he went there in 1889.

21. We had thought that he avoided mining and only engaged in providing services to the miners, but the death certificate of his daughter Ethel who died at Mathinna describes him as a miner, and in New Zealand too it appears that he was most probably mining.

22. Some have said that he had a butchers shop as well, and might have run a general store.

23. According to the family Bible she died on 17 January 1876, but according to the death registration it was 11 Feb. 1876.

24. By Dorothy Russell, Richard's youngest daughter. From the appearance of the children Thomas would have been about five years old, younger girls seven or eight, and the oldest perhaps twelve or thirteen, so it was probably 1876. The date of Thomas going to New Zealand is not known, but 1875 seems too early. He was at Mathinna in January/February 1876, and there again by about October that year.

25. This is all from Dorothy Russell.

26. According to Ada Gandy (née Beswick), from Richard Gandy. There arrival on New Years Day 1877 was told to me by my father Richard David, son of Richard Thomas.

27. Information from Dorothy Russell and others.

28. [From a printed form with insertions found at `Claremont', Derby.] Office of Lands and Works, 29 December 1880. Sir, The Survey of the 242 Acres of Land selected by you in the County of Dorset under `The Waste Lands Act', having been effected, I am now prepared to enter into contract with you for the purchase of the same.

You must therefore deposit in the Colonial Treasury within One Month from this date, the first payment, amounting to Eight pounds, one shilling and fourpence and duplicate Contracts will then be furnished to you for signature, one of which you will retain, and return the other to this Office.

I must remind you, however, that the Contract to be entered into will contain a Condition for Forfeiture to the Crown of the Land selected unless you, your Tenant or Servant, within one year after the Date of such Selection shall commence to reside upon the Lot, and shall continue to reside thereon until the full Amount of Purchase-money for such Lot is satisfied.

I am, Sir,

Your very obedient Servant

D. J. Null (?)

Deputy Commissioner of Crown Lands.

To Mr. Thomas Beswick,


The Branxholm address was due to mail for Derby being delivered to Branxholm Estate, from where it was collected by young Richard.

[Many years ago I saw a document relating to the same purchase; I think it was dated 1880 and referred to a purchase price of One pound, two shillings and sixpence.]

29. Ada Gandy wrote in her memory of Florence Vale (reproduced at end of this chapter) that they moved up the house on the top of the hill in 1885. That date seems a little late, but we have no other.

30. Forty-five years after Thomas died it was incorporated into a single farm with `Claremont', when my father bought it at auction from the executors of the estate of his grandfather. I remember Harold Bushby (a descendent of Samuel I) came up to us after the auction and congratulated my father on keeping it in the family.  We were able to do it easily because of a deal made with the mining company that was still interested in the land near the river although the mine had closed after the war.

31. A letter to Rosemerry Beswick (now Ward), about 1963. Ila was a daughter of Richard Thomas, a tribute to her is included in Chapter 5.

32. In a taped interview by D. Hooper. Thora was first grandchild of Thomas and Catherine, the daughter of Catherine the younger who married Oscar Bottcher and, being born in 1886 she remembered it quite well from the nineties.

33. Doris, who was to expect a letter from Sylie, in the 1908 postcard referred to in Chapter 2 was Doris Williams, daughter of Blanche (Beswick) Williams.  Doris married Norm Ranson and lived near us when I was a boy.  She was known to us as `Auntie Doss' although she was really a cousin.  I interviewed her in 1985 when she was still alive at the age of 90.  She was blind, and could not remember recent events clearly, but she was pleased to be talk of things long ago.

34. See Elaine Dobie's history of the Derby Uniting Church, 1987.

35. Information on renting to Florence Vale from Dorothy Russell.

36. Scottsdale, according to the family Bible, but when they were living at Derby.

37. Arrabella, Darcy and Colin.

38. Richard Gandy says that Mac Williams told him that it was across the river from where doctor's place was later, just where the creek which flows down through Claremont enters the Ringarooma River. Others give a similar witness, but there is no sign of it today.

39. She was born 9.2.1894.

40. Richard Gandy: The building and several others adjacent to it were still standing in the early 1920's. DGB: We have a photograph of it with several carts and teams of horses, one driven by Thomas Beswick.

41. RG: I should say the distance to the house from the road was a good deal less than a mile. He is correct.

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