A FAMILY HISTORY IN THE AUSTRALIAN WARS (By Gerard Thompson) Ever watched a major television show or documentary and realised that the people who are the feature of the story just happen to be your very own family? Well it happened to the Managing Editor of The Friendly Bay Islander, Gerard Thompson, recently. The documentary on SBS is called The Australian Wars and details the encounters that early settlers of Australia had with the existing Aboriginal communities of early Australia. As a child, I had been told by my mother, Esma Thompson (nee Geary) that there was an incident in the 1800s’ where a young family predecessor had survived an attack by Aborigines in the highlands of Tasmania. My mother said it was believed a servant girl had fallen over a small baby and that baby had survived the attack. Episode 2 of The Australian Wars, tells the actual story in full re-enacted detail. Patrick and Esther Gough were early settlers of the Oatlands district of Tasmania in the 1820’s It is an area known well by me as I spent many holidays of my childhood with my grandparents Robert and Evelyn Geary at Oatlands. I learned many life lessons there in that wonderful community. My grandfather, ‘Bob’ Geary, was the Oatlands bootmaker and his small shop and faded sign, still stands to this day about 200 metres from the northern end of the lovely Colonial town. In the 1820’s my great, great, great grandparents Patrick and Esther Gough were very early settlers of what was then one of the most productive areas in the known world. Around 25,000 settlers had sailed to Tasmania and were colonising fast, bringing about unsurprising clashes between the settlers and the aboriginal communities of that time. Skirmishes, until then, had been somewhat tit for tat, but it all changed on 9th of October 1828 at a place called Big Pond not far from the Oatlands of today. Geary is another name in our family, and it was a shock to discover that the attack started at the nearby Geary property with an Ann Geary being attacked by natives. (it is still not known if she is a direct relative as well) When Patrick Gough and his ‘servants’ went to the Geary property, the native force double-backed and attacked the Gough homestead, with eldest daughter Esther (the younger) escaping to reach her father for help. Patrick Gough found his wife Esther dead along with daughter Alicia and neighbour Ann Geary dying (she had made her way to their homestead). According to the SBS story, the attack was ‘different’ because it was the first time women and children had been targeted in the ever growing war between the Tasmanian aboriginals and the spreading white settlers. It apparently sent ’shock waves’ through the ever-growing migrant community. The SBS story goes on to other areas of the Tasmanian and Australian wars that raged for some years, resulting in almost complete devastation of the Tasmanian aboriginal race. The call today is for those wars and sacrifices by the Aboriginals of that time to be ‘recognised’ in some formal way. Eldest daughter Esther Gough (great great grandmother) went on to marry John McWade. Their daughter Maria McWade was my great grandmother, and Evelyn Geary (sic) my grand mother. My mother was Esma Thompson.
• A scene from The Australian Wars documentary and the Oatlands massacre.