Date of Event: N/A
Vessel type: Dinghy
Location: Huon Valley
Suggested title: He's A Very Naughty Boy!.
In 1872 ship builder John Wilson presented his new wife, Dinah, with a wedding present – a wooden dinghy. But John hadn’t built the dinghy, the builder is believed to have been ex-convict Walter Paisley.
Walter Paisley, one of around 73,000 men, women and children transported to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) between 1803 and 1853, arrived in Hobart in 1833, aged fourteen, with a conviction for housebreaking. Along with 67 other boys he was sent straight to Point Puer, part of Port Arthur, the dreaded convict prison. Walter did not behave well and was constantly in trouble. He wasn’t finally released until 1847.
Walter seems to have become a timber gatherer in the Huon Valley, where he met John Wilson. How much John helped Walter build the boat we don’t know, but the gift has survived as a reminder of the convicts who helped build the colony.
Dinah Wilson used the dinghy pretty much every day, running family errands in the way we’d use a runabout car today. She was still using it regularly when photographed by Hobart’s The Mercury newspaper on her 88th birthday in 1937.
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The dinghy is currently displayed as part of the Maritime Museum of Tasmania's permanent exhibition. The museum possesses a conservator's report detailing the dinghy's construction that suggests that it was constructed from 'off-cuts', presumably from John Wilson's ship-yard. The early european settlements of southern Tasmania were built on the shores of a network of waterways and evidence exists of families keeping in touch with their neighbours by boat, rowing to church or school, as well as using the larger ketches and river steamers to send produce and livestock to market and obtain goods from Hobart.
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Maritime Museum of Tasmania
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