27 September 2019

FIRST CAR ON THE HILL

In 1916 Mrs Pearce, the richest lady in Lindisfarne, bought the first motor-car in the village and added driving to the duties of her long-suffering lady companion. It was obviously a far more convenient mode of transport than saddling up Ranger or Gunner, or taking Mother's pony and trap, and there might have been a touch of rivalry involved, too. At any rate, the Lane family began to consider buying a brand new Ford Tourer. Costing more than £200.00, a motor-car was an expensive investment so it had to be a family decision. They sat on the verandah talking it over, and finally settled the matter in their own inimitable manner - “If someone walks along the track in the next ten minutes, we'll buy one.” Somebody did. A car would be bought.

The family consisted of Mr Benjamin Lane, his wife Marion, generally known as Fanny, and their twelve children, but they were not all there at The Turning in 1919 when this conversation was taking place. Six* of the boys had gone off to the Great War; Fred and Bern would not come home. Their father, formerly a process photographer and designer at The Mercury, was retired and amused himself inventing various contraptions, looking after his chooks and pottering about doing odd jobs. Bess, the oldest, and now a senior school-teacher in her mid-forties, was the main money-earner in the family. Doll earned a little pocket-money selling stories and poems to The Bulletin, Lone Hand and other publications and kept the house spotlessly clean. Ada had done all the cooking for the family since she was twelve years old, and Ruth, who had not long left school, had a small income as a music teacher. Hal and young John, in his mid-teens, cared for the livestock, cut wood, and generally did the “men's work” around the property.

Bert came home from the Great War in 1918, just in time for Christmas. The family decorated the dining room specially, and Father was so impressed he took photographs.


Bert had been severely wounded on the Somme and now walked with difficulty. This had been the most important factor in the family's decision to buy a car.

Once the decision was made, another problem presented itself. “The track” visible from the verandah was an old wood-carters' track from the end of Karoola Crescent over the hill to Flagstaff Gully. It was fairly rough, but good enough for the pedestrians and horses that used it. There was another track through the middle of The Turning paddocks, past several old sandstone and gravel quarries, that came out onto Bellerive Rd (now Gordons Hill Rd) where it takes a sharp right-hand bend at the top of the hill. Both these routes included a steep uphill climb. The one the family used most led down to the railway siding at the end of Flagstaff Gully where Bess caught the train to Bellerive every morning. There was a stretch of deep sand where the trap sometimes bogged, requiring Dawn to be taken out of the shafts and a deal of digging and heaving and shoving to get free, but it had a much gentler slope. They decided to make this their main driveway.

There was a minor obstacle – the Humpy, built as temporary accommodation while The Turning was under construction and now used as a workshop, was in the way. Nothing daunted, the boys demolished the chimney and with ropes and pulleys attached to convenient trees lifted the little building up and replaced it on a makeshift, loose dry-stone foundation out of the path of progress. They probably intended to get some better foundations under it eventually, but they rebuilt a rough chimney using broken bricks and rubble so that it was at least usable. About forty years later that chimney, now crumbling and fallen, was removed and the opening closed by a new door. The Humpy is still standing on its temporary foundations.

Bert hired three men from South Arm to help break rocks, and between them they built a good, solid cobbled roadway. By November 1919 it was complete, with a neat green gate at the bottom and a brand new garage at the top.


Denis, who had married in England, arrived back in Lindisfarne with his new wife and their infant son just before the road was finished.

Sadly, we don't know exactly when the car was purchased, but it's nice to think that when Norm, who “caught the first troopship out and the last one home” managed to get back in time to celebrate Christmas 1919 he was driven home from the Bellerive ferry in style up the New Motor Road.


Here is a photograph of Norm at the wheel, with Denis, Eva and Bern.

Denis and Eva bought a house in Malunna Road.

In 1922 Norm married Mrs Pearce's widowed daughter and went to live in Lowelly Road.

Bert resumed his public service job in the Audit Department in 1920, and became engaged to Grace Denholm. He built a house for them further along the hill towards the quarry, and they married in 1922, a month or so after Norm and Linda. He built a new driveway to connect with the Motor Road, but it was not nearly as elaborate, being little more than a cleared track. They called their new house The Ridge

John married Linda Gorringe and went to work in country branches of the Commonwealth Bank.

Although Doll learned to drive in the Top Paddock, Hal and his sisters generally continued to walk everywhere, with Bert driving them occasionally if required.

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In 1930 Fred Murfett bought Mr Rossington's little orchard next door to The Turning.
He got on well with the Lane family, and they gave him permission to use the Motor Road, as had Mr Rossington. However, Fred was a hard-working, business-like man who enlarged his planting and was soon harvesting substantial crops of pears. The days of horse-drawn vehicles were coming to an end, and suddenly there were heavily-laden motor lorries rumbling past The Turning, damaging the road and disrupting the peace. 

Father explained to Fred that this would have to stop. Fred approached the Clarence Council, and was provided with three road-workers. They cleared and built up the old wood-carters track to Flagstaff Gully down the boundary between his orchard and The Turning, and Fred built a packing shed half way down the hill. Much to their chagrin, the Council has found itself having to maintain Fred's driveway ever since.


After the Second World War, with a new bridge across the Derwent River, it became inconvenient having the main entrance onto Flagstaff Gully. Modern motor vehicles had no problems with steep hills.  Bert's son Geoff built a new road down to Bellerive Road, which became the common entrance for both The Turning and The Ridge. The Old Motor Road remained in use until the 1950s, when Bert and Denis subdivided the land along Flagstaff Gully Road as building blocks. Somebody put a house where the Green Gate formerly stood.

About 1930 Bert bought a second-hand Chevrolet tourer. The garage was removed from The Turning to The Ridge, and later extended to make a workshop. It was demolished in the early 21st century to make way for a tennis court. The old Ford was left rusting away in the paddock below The Ridge where its remains were still to be seen in the 1950's.

Bert and the Motor Road 1919

The Motor Road endures. Traces are still visible despite decades of bushfires and neglect. As the suburbs encroach more and more of it is disappearing under bricks and bitumen, but in its honour one of the new streets now bears the name Newmotor Road.


* Those of you who are paying attention will notice I have accounted for only five boys. Alf, the oldest son, returned to his wife's family in Melbourne, then went to Hong Kong as one of the partners in a civil engineering company. He never came back to Tasmania.