|For the pioneer islanders, the Channel is the road to anywhere else. Boats are a central factor of everyday life, and it is not surprising that this should also be the focus of organised recreation. We know that a regatta is held as early as 1868, and this is just the first. Mr Harry Denne of Woodlands (over your shoulder and up the hill) is a founding member of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. Races from Hobart to Jetty Beach at Dennes Point are held regularly, and Denne’s own yacht, the Fairlie, features prominently in the list of winners – just as he will come to rule the estuary in his beautiful home-built boat, the invincibly-fast Volant.Fun on the water is matched by frivolity on the land. Should you come this way on January 28, 1903 (having just disembarked from the Nubeena, perhaps) what a time you would have. For on this day, after several weather-enforced postponements, the ‘North Bruni Fair’ is finally held. The creation of Mrs. Lily Young and Miss Edie Denne, the ‘tented fair’ took place, in the Mercury’s words, ‘under Marquees in a grassy nook romantically situated beside a little lake just over from the beach’. You could canoe on the lagoon – that’s it, much reduced, just up ahead. You could munch on cake, fruit, sweets and strawberries and cream. You could purchase vegetables, poultry and crayfish. You could marvel at Mr. J. Davis’s 30-pound turnip.
Tented fairs are held here for two more years. In 1904 you could be one of the 200 people who come up from ‘town’, and in 1905 your well-spent money would raise funds for the North Bruny Cricket Club.
In the early years of the twentieth century there is much orcharding and cropping hereabouts, particularly on the farms of Denne, Young and Davis. In 1916 the first Autumn and Produce Show is held nearby. In competition are more than 25 varieties of apples, are Cleopatras, Cox’s Orange Pippins, Gloria Mundis, and Tasma’s Prides. There are also many different pears and potatoes – White and Black Californians and White Elephants among the latter – all of which suggests a much more varied local agriculture than exists today.
Though wartime bereavements saw the show discontinued the following year, fairs and markets have remained a regular feature of Dennes Point life until the 1950s – and they are back with us today. Though no longer at Bottom Lagoon, what Mrs. Young and Miss Denne started here in 1903 has become a tradition.
Further Reading and image sources
Gray, F. O. (1978), Recollections of North Bruny Island, Richard Lord and Partners, Taroona Tas.).
Tented fair image: From the collection of F. Oliver Gray, courtesy of Sue Smythe.
Regatta: Tasmanian Archives, WL Crowther Collection.
North Bruny Cricket Team: Tasmanian Archives – Series: Miscellaneous Collection of Photographs. 1860 – 1992 (PH30).
(Click to enlarge images)