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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hartnett, Patrick Joseph (Paddy) (1876–1944)

by Nic Haygarth

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Patrick Joseph (Paddy) Hartnett (1876-1944), bushman, was born on 11 November 1876 at Westbury, Tasmania, one of fourteen children of Irish-born parents Patrick Hartnett, schoolteacher, and his wife Mary, née Collins. Young Paddy was literate, but his formal education ended when, aged 12, he became a bush labourer in New Zealand, as did about forty other boys from his district. Returning to Tasmania two years later, he carried supplies to the Corinna goldfields, where a bottle of whisky won in a rowing contest began his undoing. Red-haired, blue-eyed and sturdy, a fine axeman and rower, by 1900 he was hunting around the Great Western Tiers. On 23 August 1915 at Deloraine Hartnett married with Catholic rites Lucy Hanson, of Waratah. They would struggle to support eight children, initially managing the Liena general store, a highland staging post.

Hartnett helped to open Tasmania's alpine country. When tramping was a novelty, he, Bob Quaile (a Wilmot farmer) and Gustav Weindorfer conducted guided overnight tours in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair area. On the trips, Paddy—distinguished by his 'hard-hitter' or bowler hat—was guide, bearer, hunter, cook, waiter and raconteur. He loved the bush, which was also for him a refuge from alcoholism, but was frustrated by lack of opportunity. A superb bushman and King-Billy-pine carpenter, he was charismatic when sober but an easy dupe when drunk. He never swore though he often muttered 'Jerusalem the golden', perhaps after a favourite snaring-ground, the Walls of Jerusalem; this region was the setting for Roger Scholes's movie, The Tale of Ruby Rose, inspired by pioneers such as the Hartnetts.

Paddy's seasonal regime in the spectacular Mersey and Forth valleys involved burning off in spring, and guiding and prospecting as far south as Lake St Clair in summer. In winter he caught Bennett's wallabies in the relatively merciful 'necker' snare. To safeguard the drying skins, his wife and son Billy joined the circuit of Paddy's Du Cane, Mount Ossa (Pelion East), Kia Ora and other huts, braving snowstorms and primitive conditions.

While farming at Lorinna on the upper Forth in 1916, Hartnett established a sporadically worked wolfram mine. In the 1920s he sought mining work in Tasmania's rugged west, washed osmiridium at Adamsfield and prospected for gold at the Jane River. His family scraped by in Hobart. Gradually alcoholism consumed him. A drunken fall damaged an eye, which Paddy covered with a black patch. Mining, hunting and farm work at remote Gordon Vale sustained him until he suffered a stroke in 1938. Delirium tremens followed. He died of cancer on 26 September 1944 in a Hobart hospital and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. His wife, two sons and five daughters, one named Marion St Clair after neighbouring highland lakes, survived him. Geographical features named after him—the mountain Paddys Nut, Hartnett Rivulet and Hartnett Falls—reflected his love of highland Tasmania. Given reserve status in 1922, the areas that he had helped to make accessible became a national park in 1947.

Select Bibliography

  • R. and K. Gowlland, Trampled Wilderness (Devonport, Tas, 1976)
  • F. Perrin, Account of a Trip to Barn Bluff via the Forth Valley in January 1920 (typescript, privately held)
  • NS573/1/11 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • L. Hartnett, The Beginning of a Life as a Mother (typescript, c.1962, privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Nic Haygarth, 'Hartnett, Patrick Joseph (Paddy) (1876–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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