In 2018 the Launceston Historical Society celebrates its 30th year and it is fitting that the 30th ‘Our History’ looks back at the beginnings and development of the society.
The late Patricia Ratcliff OAM was the driving force behind forming the society to recognise the bi-centenary of Australia (1788-1988) and the centenary of the City of Launceston (1888-1988) and Launceston Mayor, A Tsinoglou called a public meeting, attended by more than 100 people, at the Town Hall on October 25, 1988.
The newly-formed society held its first function at the Northern Regional Library (Launceston Library) on November 29, 1988. Paul Brunton, manuscript librarian at the State Library of NSW, presented a lecture and exhibition on The Letters of Newton Fowell 1768-1790.
The original executive committee members were: president, Dr Charles Fahey; vice-president, Richard Lewandowski; secretary and interim treasurer, Patricia Ratcliff; minute secretary, Dorothy Rosemann. Subsequent presidents were Patricia Ratcliff, Dan Huon, Anne Bartlett, Marita Bardenhagen and currently Marion Sargent.
The society’s headquarters were originally at the QVMAG’s Maritime Museum in the Johnstone and Wilmot building on the corner of Cimitiere and St John streets (1842 Gallery). It now meets at the QVMAG at Inveresk. By November 1988 there were 25 members, in 2018 there are 166.
The inaugural John West Memorial lecturer was Professor Henry Reynolds. His paper Tasmania’s Forgotten Treaty, presented on March 16, 1989, was well received at the new Tasmanian State Institute of Technology.
This prestigious annual event is still held in the same theatre at the Sir Raymond Ferrall Centre, University of Tasmania. The Examiner newspaper generously sponsored the lecture for 26 years.
The first presentation of honorary life memberships, in December 1995, were to eminent Launceston historians, Sir Raymond Ferrall, Jack Branagan, Hawley Stancombe and Dennis Hodgkinson. In February 2017 Anne Bartlett and Marion Sargent received life memberships for recognition of their services to the society.
After 30 years, the Launceston Historical Society is a vibrant and active community group. Entertaining talks, the John West Memorial Lecture, Pugh Day Lecture, excursions, history walks, archaeological digs and history prizes for primary and university students are keeping the history of our region alive. This series of articles and photographs is taking our history to an even wider audience.
Patricia Ratcliff’s vision of ‘bringing together people with an interest in history’ has been realised.