With funding from the Tasmanian Tourism Promotion Plan in 2008 Christine and Graham designed a trail to celebrate the Chinese tin mining heritage on their property. So this blog describes how Henry’s story was brought back to life.
Christine and Graham purchased their property in Branxholm in 2001. They chose this property because they wished to establish a tourism accommodation business. They saw the 36 acre property on the Ringarooma River bounded by regenerated bush as a perfect location for a tourism business.
Discovery of Heritage Tin Mines
However, in 2001 the new owners were unaware of the heritage value of their property. When Christine and Graham explored the bush they found what looked like historic mine sites. In order to learn more, Graham contacted Greg Dickens of Mineral Resources Tasmania. Greg supplied Graham with copies of old maps detailing the historic mine leases. In addition to the local Anglican priest who owned the Martial Mary lease on the river flats, Chinese immigrants owned most of the other leases. Leases owned by Ah Ping, Ah Moy, Fon Hock and Ah Back were on Graham and Christine’s property.
The Ah Ping alluvial mine, undisturbed for nearly 100 years, was now re-vegetated with man ferns, Myrtle and Sassafras trees. With some remaining tall eucalypts the regrowth had formed a natural grotto. Fern and moss covered rock heaps and a tail race flowing with water in the wetter months were evidence of the miners’ hard work with pick and shovel.
Because they fell in love with the beauty of the heritage mine site, Christine and Graham set about trying to learn of the Chinese miners who had lived and worked in Branxholm and Tasmania. They also felt that the site and the history should be made available to the community.
Awarded a Tourism Grant
In 2008 Tin Dragon Cottages won a Tasmanian Tourism Promotion Plan grant to develop a walk through the alluvial mine site and to research some of the history. After searching the Tasmania Archives, Christine wrote a brief history of Henry Ah Ping and the Chinese miners of Branxholm. Meanwhile Graham constructed an easy 15 minute circuit walk through the alluvial mine site.
Mining Heritage Interpreted
The grant money also enabled Christine to display the history and old photos on a series of posters. Although these posters are not currently on display, Christine and Graham can make the posters available upon request.
A further aspect of the project was the commissioning of Folko Kooper (Mangalore Tasmania) to create steel silhouettes depicting the hard working Chinese miners. These silhouettes slip quietly into the landscape as gifts for the observant walker in the mine. Then at the centre of the mine, there is a meditation area with seating made from sandstone (sourced from mainland China). A nearby steel bollard has the inscription in Cantonese, “when you put yourself in another’s position, your wisdom reveals”. 将(jiāng)心(xīn)比(bǐ)心(xīn)，方(fāng)显(xiǎn)才(cái)智(zhì)
Officially Opened by Tourism Minister 2009
The Minister for Tourism, Michelle O’Byrne, opened the walk in 2009. Graham and Christine were privileged to have Mr Norman Moy (grandson of William Ah Moy) and 6 members of his extended family present for the opening. Norman spoke with great passion about his family ties to Branxholm.
In addition to the Moy family, other Chinese descendants have visited Tin Dragon Cottages too. These people have included descendants of Ah Ping and Henry’s wife Louisa Seelin, Maa Mon Chin (Weldborough), Fon Hock (Chung), Teuon, Chin Kit and Chintock. So for Christine and Graham this has been a greatly rewarding experience and they continue to learn more about the local history.