My Week With Errol Flynn

Tasmania has the population with the oldest median age across Australia, as well as the highest percentage of inhabitants over the age of 65 years. It would also seem that they have more than their fair share of octagenarians and nonagenarians which I’m putting down to fresh air, home grown vegetables, Scallops, and delightful, crisp chardonnays.

Tasmania, an Island off our Island, takes a little over three hours to traverse from north to south, and means that many families are inter-related. And I’m not quoting that old “two headed “chestnut – farming communities of the 1800’s and 1900’s were the product of both fertile lands and people. You need to know this to understand that familial ties remain strong across Tasmania to this day and grudges from one hundred years ago remain intact. This in part accounts for a large proportion of its population having a distinct distaste for actor, Errol Flynn. Many of the stuffy, old matrons had a friend who knew a friend who had a brother who went to school with Flynn in Hobart before World War 1. No one liked him much from all accounts.

Hobart, the place of Flynn’s birth in 1909, appears a tad conflicted.

I stumbled across a plaque in front of the Grand Chancellor Hotel, one of the swankier establishments on Davey Street on the Hobart waterfront, recognising Flynn’s contribution to cinema – right up there with the opening of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory.


Flynn’s Tassie childhood is acknowledged by the Tasmanian Tourist Bureau with a walking tour dedicated to houses, schools, and churches attended by a young Flynn. One of the buildings that forms part of the University bears the name of Flynn Senior, a renowned marine biologist in the day. The brochure isn’t always in print and I had to rely on a document from ten years ago. It does provide an interesting look into life in this very southern capital over a century ago with much of the housing unchanged. What I would give for a peek into some bathrooms and kitchens, as I have on good authority that chip heaters are still in use in some homes.


A parkland in Sandy Bay has been renamed to honour Flynn, and includes a truly dreadful artwork which is supposed to be reminiscent of the actors days in Hollywood. Talk about devaluing property prices!

The State Theatre, at 375 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart, opened as a venue for cultural events in 1913 and has an iconic Star on the footpath commemorating Errol, planted firmly by his daughter, Rory, on the occasion of his 100th birthday in 2009.


My totally unexpected Flynn find was a result of ambling through the colonial grazing communities in the Tasmanian midlands. No publicity whatsoever. The Kentish Arms Hotel, in High Street, Oatlands, was first licensed in 1834 and is in dire need of a coat of paint, or two or three. As in many rural communities the pub has had to diversify to survive and so what was previously the lounge has become the TKO Bakery and Cafe with a repaint job. The meeting room is full of lobby cards for boxing movies – which is presumably the TKO reference, the public bar and bathroom facilities are covered in Monroe posters, and the Cafe is full of Errol Flynn posters. Hundreds of them. And did I mention the boom camera from Robin Hood?

Morning tea was a pleasant enough experience with fresh scones and the warmth of a wood heater. Unfortunately, my attempts to quizz staff about the collection fell on deaf ears. One out of ten for my Interrogation Skills. One out of ten for the Staffs graduation from Charm School.

There is an old Irish proverb about cats and kittens which I am unable to repeat here. Just note that I will pursue this further. A boom camera would not only enhance my tv room, there is the possibility of replacing the garden gnomes in the front yard.

Despite wading through numerous bookstores across the Island – it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it – not one Errol related book.

Tassie seems to have an odd love/hate relationship with this Tasmanian Devil.

More To History Than What Is In Books…..

Still driving around the island of Tasmania, waking up each day with absolutely no plans. Some travellers allow only a few days to discover the essence of Tassie. This is my 7th trip and I always stumble upon new places and things on each and every journey.

This holiday I seem to have focused on war memorials in country towns as well as the infamous Tasmanian Scallop Pie. These monuments to the memory of previous generations provide such a rich history of townships, in many cases documenting the deaths of multiple members within families in both World War 1 and 2. 



Avoca, in the Midlands (meaning that it is between Launceston in the north and Hobart in the south, and in the very guts of the island) is rich grazing land. With a population of only 123 at the 2006 census this is the township’s memorial, with a tree planted for each of the fallen. More trees than residents nowadays……tells a story, doesn’t it?


A little south is the town of Ross, another farming community with sandstone buildings dating back to convict times. On the crossroads of Church and Bridge Streets there is a field gun from the Boer War and the war memorial is a central part of the intersection, as was popular in many country towns. This crossroads area is humorously referred to as the “Four Corners of Ross” with each corner having a label:

▪Temptation: the Man O’ Ross Hotel

▪Recreation: Town Hall

▪Salvation: Roman Catholic Church

▪Damnation: Jail (now a private residence)


Jericho, slightly off the main highway, where mud walls built by convicts in the early 1800’s still stand, is the resting place of John Hutton Bisdee, the first Australian born recipient of the Victoria Cross.

Travelling south to the East Coast it was fascinating to locate a memorial to all sailors in the services at Triabunna, including the name of one of Tasmania’s better known sons, Teddy Sheean.

More on Scallop Pies next time……



20th June, 1909

This time nine years ago I flew into Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. Now some of you may be shaking your heads in wonder that anyone would travel to Tassie in the heart of winter. Located 240 km to the south of the Australian mainland, and separated by Bass Strait, Tassie is simply beautiful with an abundance of magnificent scenery. It can also be wretchedly cold.


But my trip nine years ago had nothing to do with tourism or recreation. You see, I was a girl on a mission.

This day, nine years ago, Hobart celebrated what would have been Errol Flynn’s 100th Birthday, being the township of his birth.(An aside : some would argue commiserate rather than celebrate as young Errol was a bit of a lad and upset many of the boring, old farts of Hobart. Tassie, being the Island that holds the six degrees of separation true is still home to many with a grudge).

Although Hobart couldn’t be any further away from Hollywood Errol’s daughter from his marriage to Nora Eddington, Rory Flynn, was in town to share the celebrations.

I won’t bore you with the details. I am sure that none of you would have been mesmerised by a pair of Flynn’s woollen swimming trunks being exhibited in the Hobart Museum, nor interested in the star laid in the footpath outside the local theatre. Okay, so I admit to being a tad eccentric……..

However, one of my favourite memories was an evening shared with my 23 year old daughter (proving that eccentricity must be genetic), watching a 1938 black and white movie on the big screen. Drinking champagne.

The Dawn Patrol is one of my favourite Flynn movies, which also starred Basil Rathbone and David Niven. Major Brand (Basil Rathbone), the commander of the 59th division of the British Royal Flying Corps in 1915 France, is frantic over the many casualties his squadron has suffered. When Captain Courtney (Errol Flynn) and his buddy Scott (David Niven) lose another of their best friends in a dangerous mission, Courtney lashes out at Brand, who hands Courtney the reins. Now in control, Captain Courtney soon sees things from Brand’s perspective as more good men are killed in the line of duty.


Of course there is all the usual melodrama, and all the baffoonery expected between Errol and Niven, though for a movie with a message, a movie with a tragic ending, it was the simple joy of watching such an old flick together that gave us both much pleasure. And the champagne, of course.

So on 20th June, 2018, “here’s looking of you, kid”. Oops. Wrong movie.

Australian Author Challenge: The Sister’s Song By Louise Allen.

Louise Allan is a debut author from Western Australia. This manuscript was awarded a Varuna residential fellowship in 2014 and shortlisted for the City of Fremantle-TAG Hungerford Award. Louise grew up in Tasmania but has since moved to Perth.She is a former doctor and has a passion for music.

This book begins strongly with the death of Ida and Nora’s father in a fictional, rural township in Tasmania in the 1920’s. Their mother has a nervous breakdown and is institutionalised, and the young sisters move in with their elderly grandmother in town.

The girls have been close all their young lives though the grandmother is particularly encouraging of Nora’s musical talents and encourages her to follow her dream of a career as a vocalist. This helps to widen the gap between the sisters, as does their mother’s eccentric behaviour, and Ida ends up working as a nanny, and their lives become quite separate.

The sisters are reunited when Nora loses her scholarship, and she finds herself resentful and isolated, living in a shack in the wilds of Tasmania with her timber cutter husband and children.

Ida lives a simple life with a good man, though is unable to have a family of her own. She doesn’t understand how Nora can be so miserably unhappy when she appears to have it all.

Stretching across sixty plus years, this novel covers the dreams and very real lives of sisters, close in age, but very different in character. Music is the thread that retains the family bond across the generations.




The opening chapters of this novel resonated with me as I identified with the loss of a parent at a young age, and having a younger sister who was definately Nora to my Ida.

It was also obvious that the author had a good feel for life in early Tasmania and she portrayed this extremely well. Her descriptions were great without being over wordy – loved this!

The second half of the novel drifted a little for me, and I guess the themes of sisterly ties and motherhood – the pros and cons – became a little too “girlie” for me. Purely a personal issue.

A good read which would make a good movie: you would just have to insert a couple of car chases and some sort of alien, and Bobs your Uncle.