“Tullochgoram” was the name
James Grant gave to the huge piece of land granted to him by the
Van Diemens land Colonial Government in the early 1820s. The grant
stretched from one side of the Valley to the other and east along
the river as far as “Malahide”, William Talbot’s grant.
North of the river another small valley appeared to push the huge
mountains aside to form a place of beauty. It was rich in pasture
and had an abundance of crystal clear water in two creeks that ambled
down from the mountains with a never ending flow supplied from winter
snow and spring rains.
It was an ideal place for Grant to run one of his herds of sheep
and a hut was soon built to house a shepherd to protect the herd
from predators. The Nook, as it became known, was a lonely, quiet
outpost in those days, with its only inhabitants being a few Aborigines
and a convict shepherd.
In 1847 Keeling Richardson, a convict who had been transported to
Norfolk Island in 1844, was sent to Van Diemens Land and assigned
to Grant, who immediately sent him, with a herd of sheep to the
Nook. Richardson, it seems, was a fossicker and in 1852 found a
piece of alluvial gold in the creek near his hut. It would appear
Richardson was rather excited over his prize find and it wasn’t
long before the headlines in the Launceston newspapers carried the
story of his good fortune.
Within weeks The Nook was teaming with fortune hunters driven by
the desire to find their pot of gold. The quiet little outpost soon
became a campsite for hundreds of prospectors who went about digging
shafts and panning the creeks in what was to be the first gold rush
Soon the tents and rough huts were replaced by more stable buildings
and a town was established, which was given the name Mangana, taken
from the words “Mangana Lienta”. These were the words the Aborigines
used to describe the South Esk River.
Whilst the Mangana gold fields never reached the heights of the
Mathinna fields, twenty kilometres to the north, it was quite productive
with a number of mines such as the Golden Sovereign, Entrance, Argyle,
Alpine, Fingal Gully, Majors Gully and Mangana Gold all making a
nice profit. But by 1930 all mines had run out of gold and closed,
all that remained were a few individuals panning the creeks.
Mangana slowly declined after 1930 and what was once a vibrant community
with over 500 people, a police station, general store, Three hotels,
school and two churches, is today a small tranquil village with
a mere 30 odd residents.
The most significant remaining building is the Our lady of the Sacred
Heart Catholic Church, which was built in 1912 and designed by Launceston
architect Alexander North. The 95 year old building is on the Tasmanian
heritage register with one of its highlights being the stain glass
windows, all of which were donated by Mangana families. Its interior
is also of interest due to the use of Tasmanian native timbers,
both in the structure and its furnishings.
Arguable the principal event in the town since its golden days was
in 1988 when the main street was used as a set for the Tasmanian
made feature film "The Tale of Ruby Rose". Hundreds of
cast and crew, led by director Roger Scholes, converged on the little
village for a short time and went about creating a film that told
the story of a young woman living in the isolated wilderness of
Tasmania’s highlands. It told how she overcome a chronic phobic
fear of darkness by taking a harrowing journey out of the mountains
to seek help from her long lost grandmother.
In the early 1990s a mining company using modern equipment reworked
the old Major Gully mine, but the operation soon folded. Despite
this, the old hands from around the area still maintain there is
gold in them there hills. They tell tales of blokes like the Parker
and Smith brothers who knew the right spots in the creeks to pan
for “colour” and would regularly travel into Fingal and pass a pill
bottle filled with small pieces of gold over the counter at Holder
Brothers store where it could be turned into cash.
What lies ahead for the rustic little village set in the shadows
of Tower Hill and Ben Lomond is unclear. Modern technology and the
high price of gold could see a resurge of mining in the area sometime
in the future, but as one old resident said in a recent ABC interview:
“Mangana is better left as it is, quiet and gentle.”