Top 10 famous Tasmanians
Tasmania lies below the wintery southern horizon of the most remote populated-continent in the world. The 22 million citizens of mainland Australia don’t so much malign their half million brethren in Tasmania – although they do do that from time to time – as fail, mostly, to recognise that they even exist. Tasmanians don’t care. Tasmania has a few sons and daughters made good, but even they seldom parade their origins. Here is a list of some of them.
(Crown Princess Mary of Denmark)
If you think that being faced with a barrage of telephoto camera lenses at your every public appearance is a reasonable trade for a h-u-g-e dress allowance then this is a fairy tale for you – as inspiring in its possibilities as the rise of a President Obama, and no less astonishing. Mary Elizabeth Donaldson, one-time real estate agent, from suburban Taroona in the municipality of Kingborough, south of Hobart, happened to meet Prince Frederik, heir to the Danish throne, at a pub during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. They married in 2004. On their occasional visits to Tasmania they dress down and do delightfully ordinary family things. Princess Mary carries her responsibilities with dignity, and for this she is applauded, even in Tasmania.
Former Captain of the Australian cricket team
The retirement of the second highest first class cricket run getter in December 2012 represents the end of an era which cricket fans the world over seem to recognise with almost universal acclaim for our favourite son.
Many Australians are obsessed with cricket, at least at the international level, as long as the game is being played on home turf and as long as Australia is winning. Arguably the Australian team’s most successful captain, Launceston-born, Ponting, had cricketing lows but on so many occasions he managed to turn around both his career and the fortunes of the Australian squad. His sort of talent, discipline and the will to win, in the estimation of many, is the thing they like most about Ponting, and about Cricket as a sporting phenomenon.
Errol Flynn was born in Hobart. Nobody, including Tasmanians, born after the baby-boomer years has heard of him, let alone knowing what the term ‘swashbuckling’ might mean, so I will simply note that he was a much-admired-in-his-day Hollywood film actor and ladies-man. His autobiography was entitled “My Wicked, Wicked Ways” which, you must admit, indicates that he was something of a character.
Prime Minister of Australia
If there was to be a plaster bust in the arrivals hall at Hobart Airport, or a name on, say, the State Library Building, then it should be that of Joseph Lyons. Sir Joe and Dame Enid Lyons both occupied positions of enomous influence in Parliament from their small town home of Stanley in North West Tasmania. The spawling State and Federal electorate of Lyons is named after him. Lyons was Premier of Tasmania on two occasions, and a Prime Minister of Australia.
Now here is someone we should really be proud of: Launceston-born and -educated Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE, now Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, composer of more than 350 musical works, chosen by the National Trust as one of Australia’s 100 Living National Treasures, Honorary Foreign Life Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and lionized as one of the 100 Most Influential Australians of all time. And where, I ask you, are the buildings named after him too?
Former cricketer and Ashes hero
There is a statue of David Boon at Hobart’s Bellerive Cricket Oval. To widen his acclaim even further, a brewery distributed millions of plastic dolls in his likeness which, in this mass-marketing age, is about as close to sainthood as you can get. David Boon was also born in Launceston (is a pattern emerging here?) and achieved fame in an international cricketing career spanning 13 years, punctuated by breathless accounts of his beer-drinking exploits. Nothing will endear you to Australians, including Tasmanians, as much as hitting the winning runs to beat the Poms at cricket, regularly drinking everybody under the table and demonstrating a dry sense of humour with minimal use of language. David Boon is the quintessential Tasmanian hero.
World Champion Axeman
If you are a big bloke without filmstar looks then the way to win the hearts of everyone in your state is to be world champion 21 years straight, to become the first person in world sporting history to have won one thousand championships, to have a happy and approachable manner and to make an extensive contribution to community life and to charities. David Foster OAM, in the eyes of all Tasmanians, can do no wrong.
Sportsman, writer and media personality
Max Walker is another former Australian test cricketer and wit, although he broke the mould by being born in Hobart. His parents were the licensees of the Empire Hotel, now the Republic Bar in North Hobart, which seems to set you up in a rich Australian tradition. He further cemented his future fame by excelling at Australian Rules football and has gone on to become something of a celebrity as a sports commentator, media personality and writer of several humorous books. In case you haven’t realised it already, that’s how Australians like their heroes – sporting, and able to win, fond of a drink or two, and not taking life too seriously.
Alannah Hill was born in Geeveston, in southern Tasmania, grew up in Penguin on the north coast of the island, spent time in Hobart, and then moved, as a teenager, to Melbourne, as many young Tasmanians do. She worked in a fashion store in South Yarra and launched her own design label in the mid-1990s before opening a boutique and then several stores throughout Australia and New Zealand. The David Jones department store chain has given her a high profile by promoting her youth-oriented fashion range.
Bushman – “King of the Wilderness”
We started this list of famous Tasmanians with a future queen and we end with a past king: Deny King, known far and wide as the king of the wilderness. Deny King charted his own course in life and, in doing so, overcame one of the harshest environments in the world, the remote south-west wilderness of Tasmania. Many would like to turn their back on the pressures of urban life, a few would consider crossing Bass Strait to start anew in Tasmania as somewhat alternate, but it takes a man with real self-reliance and disdain for comfort and convenience to walk the path that he chose. Deny King, although he died nearly 20 years ago, is worth getting to know.