It is five-twenty in the morning. Dark. A lone streetlight struggles to illuminate the night. Wind whips cold rain against the windows and autumn leaves dance in mad circles in the yard. Inside it is warm; calm. It is the fiftieth day of lockdown; fifty days since I left Indonesia with my family to sit out the pandemic in far-away Tasmania. This is Battery Point in the time of corona.
Seven years have passed since I bought the little bluestone house at 64 Hampden Road known as Fusilier Cottage, but I have not properly lived in it until now. In that time, it has served as an art gallery and antique shop. Once or twice we camped here over summer breaks. Since April last year, it has been a building site. While I ran an education development project in Indonesia, my brother refurbished the old cottage and built an architect-designed extension at the rear and into the back of the garden. The work is now complete, Annick’s Antiques is now back in business in the front rooms, and I am no stranger to Battery Point.
Hobart born-and-bred, I lived in Albuera Street in the early Sixties. As a little boy, I was occasionally babysat by Dorothea Henslowe in her Battery Point home. Miss Henslowe was a good friend of my grandmother’s. I attended Albuera St Primary School before moving to Princes Street and then Hutchins – eventually completing Batchelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees at the University of Tasmania. As an undergraduate student I lived for a while in Crelin Street, at the top of Billy Goat Lane. While there, I played in a folk band at St Ives Hotel (we were paid in beer in those days), having cut my teeth as a singer-songwriter in the Sunday night sessions at 63 Salamanca Place. Mummy’s Coffee Shop, in Waterloo Crescent, was another favourite haunt – a place to hang out, play guitars and drink hot chocolate.
Windmill viewed from Wellington Crescent (now Waterloo Crescent), 1860
After Angus left in 1842 to take up a post as Superintendent of the Jericho Probation Station, the house was used as a family residence for many years. In 1871, it sold for 570 pounds. One family, the Eyles, lived in the cottage from just after the first world war until well after the second world war. I knew it in 1973 as the office of the Royal College of General Practitioners, where my girlfriend got her first job as a typist and operated the telex machine. That same year, an application to pave the garden for use as a carpark was rejected by the Council. There was a plan to turn this section of Hampden Road into a pedestrian mall. The following year, however, approval was given to remove an interior wall, fireplaces and chimney. The cottage became a family planning clinic. Forty years later, I acquired it from Pam Corkhill, who had been running a real-estate agency there for ten years.
When we moved in, after self-quarantining at an Opossum Bay shack for three weeks, it was early April and the cottage was still a building site. The garden was bald – a pile of loam and bare dirt screened from the street. We had saved as much as we could from the old garden, which, while much admired, was ready for a freshen-up. Hobart and Battery Point were locked down by the pandemic. The pub across the road was barred shut. The shops closed. We stood on our stoop with a candle and observed the ANZAC Day dawn service, looking down Kelly Street to the cenotaph in an eerie silence. And the streets were empty – except for people walking their dogs and taking the opportunity to chat at a distance in the afternoons. It all seemed quite unreal. But we felt immediately at home.
Fusilier Cottage is iconic, and, while it is now my property, in a sense, I hold it in trust for the wider community, for the future; a little piece of Tasmania’s heritage. And the good folk of Battery Point obviously feel the same way; everyone stops for a chat, everyone peers in to see what we are doing with the old place, with the cottage and garden, everyone has an opinion.
Eventually we will return to Indonesia, to pick up our lives and our work there. When we do so, we plan to rent our home out for short stays. So, like Angus McLeod, we have created a home and a business. But we won’t be away for long.
As the final finishing touches were made, and the building project was completed, the garden filled with autumn leaves, the weather grew crisp and the days grew short. The turning of Tasmania’s seasons is something I have missed during my time in Indonesia. Now, after six months, we are still here. Covid is running wild across the world – but in Battery Point the spring bulbs are up, bumblebees are humming on sunny afternoons and, as the mountain is dusted with snow, seabirds circle in clear air and the cafes of Salamanca fill with locals enjoying the sunshine. I continue to run the Indonesian education project from a tiny dormer room upstairs in the old cottage, every day we walk the streets – and we are relishing our time back home in Battery Point.
Battery Point Community Association, In Bobby’s Footsteps, https://www.batterypointwalk.com.au/locations/fusilier-cottage, accessed 8/9/20
Heyward, Ann Allart 2010, A Heyward Heritage 1793-2010, Unpublished manuscript
Ritchie, G 2012, On the Convict Trail, http://ontheconvicttrail.blogspot.com/2014/07/fuselier-cottage.html, accessed 8/9/20
Rowntree, Amy 1951, Battery Point, Today and Yesterday, Adult Education Board of Tasmania
Sumby, Jonathan 2020, Various emails, photographs, discussions and clippings
The Royal Society of Tasmania 2009, ed. Margaret Davies, Charles Darwin in Hobart Town