Chinese memorial stone, ceremonial oven and headstone, Weldborough

Ancestor worship was an important feature of Chinese culture and Confucian religion, being a mechanism of clan ownership of land and permeating the social structure and ideology of ancient China. Most of the Chinese in northeast Tasmania carried on their customs and buried their dead in the traditional manner making only the adjustments required of them by the laws of the land. Whenever possible the bones of the deceased were exhumed and sent back to China to reside in the ancestral burial grounds. It was common practice for those who could afford the journey to return to China to die.

The cemetery contains a memorial erected by the local Chinese community to their dead and a number of Chinese graves. Only one grave bears a headstone engraved with Chinese characters but it is very likely that there are many unmarked Chinese graves in the cemetery.
From “Tasmania’s Chinese Heritage: an historical record of Chinese Sites in North East Tasmania”, by Helen Vivian


More…

Chinese to Tasmania, pre-1870

The 1870s saw an influx of Chinese migrants to Tasmania to mine for gold and later tin. Prior to this there were a number of Chinese already living on the island. So I started making a list of them. The list is here.

So that’s what this series of posts is, a documentation of any information I’ve come across. (Not an attempt to tell the complete story of any individual or family, but if you have anything to add or a link to more information, it’ll be welcome. And images, I need some images.)

With variations in spelling and deliberate names changes, it can be hard to track people especially if they move about, so there might be some duplication or things missed, and the sources themselves are often wrong. So any extra information, corrections etc. are good.

There are also the shipping records. People arrive who don’t seem to appear again. People depart who don’t seem to have arrived. Some are just passing through. So far, I’ve only included arrivals and departures when they connect to names found elsewhere but I’m sure there are some in there who stayed but I have yet to find another trace of.

But most importantly, this is an ongoing list. I keep finding more names so entries are still being added.

Name list.
All the posts.

Wham/James Sing

[Obviously there is more that can be added about this family, but this is enough for the purposes of this blog.]

The first Europeans to commercially fish for abalone in Tasmania were a group of Irish shark fishermen at Southport. When the Jesuit priest Father Julian Tennison-Woods visited Southport and he found ten families fishing for shark there and in Recerche Bay. They boiled down the livers for oil, sold the fins and used the flesh for fertilizer on their cabbage fields. When the weather was too rough to catch shark they speared abalone. The fins and the abalone were boiled and then dried by Wham Sing and his brother Teck at Southport and shipped to Hobart for export to the goldfields. According to Tenison-Woods the Sydney merchant Chin Ateak was prepared to pay 9d a pound in 1880 for any quantity of the shellfish that was ‘much esteemed by the Chinese’. The priest found that although abalone were abundant ‘it was too troublesome a fishery to make it a pursuit, except when nothing else could be caught.’
The Tasmanian Abalone Fishery: A Personal History


MARRIAGES: Wham Sing & Eliza Palmer, Franklin district 1864 RGD37/1/23 p62

BIRTHS from RGD 33

An act of charity, deserving of record, has just been performed by some splitters from Southport, who arrived in town early yesterday morning. It appears that a man named John Fisher, and his daughter Mary Fisher, 16 years of age had for some days been suffering from severe illness and were unable to procure medical attendance, they being in extremely destitute circumstances, and there being no doctor resident nearer to their place of abode than Three Hut Point. Under these circumstances the men referred to, whose names are Edward Isaacson, James Warren, John Burgess, Henry Silvester, and George Asher, obtained the use of a whaleboat belonging to James Sing, a native of China, living at Southport, and volunteered to bring the invalids to town, free of charge. They accordingly started on their mission of mercy at about 3 p. m. on Thurs-day, but whilst on the voyage hither the girl died. As soon as the boat reached town the body was conveyed to the hospital dead-house by the police, and the girl’s father was also removed to the institution, where he still lies under treatment.
The Mercury, 10 April 1869


DEATH: Avis Aella Sing, Esperance district 1871 RGD 35/1/40 p63

BATES V. SING.-This was an action brought by Jos. Bates, of the barge Redwing, against James Sing, a Chinaman, residing at Southport, to recover £21 for breach of contract, for not loading plaintiff’s barge with certain staves as agreed. Defendant, by his plea, denied the contract.

Mr. Charles Ball appeared for the plaintiff ; Mr. P. Crisp for defendant.

The plaintiff, sworn, proved the defendant had sent for him in the middle of December last, to proceed to Southport to bring to town a cargo of staves for the defendant, and that on his arrival at Southport the defendant had stated he had only half the staves left, the other half having been washed away. The defendant declined sending the staves he had to town, but offered plaintiff 10s. for his trouble. Plaintiff estimated his damages at the amount claimed. Mr. Crisp addressed the jury, and called the defendant, who denied any knowledge of plaintiff, but admitted requesting a man named Geary to send some craft for the staves ; and further stated that the staves had been washed away, and that plaintiff required too much to bring the remaining staves to town. The respective counsel having replied, and His Honor summed up, the jury, without retiring, returned a verdict for plaintiff, damages £8 15s. Mr. Crisp applied for a new trial, as the verdict was against the weight of evidence.
The Mercury, 19 April 1876

MAINTENANCE.-Eliza Sing proceeded against Lee Hung for having failed to contribute to the support of his child.
Mr Miller appeared for the complainant, and Mr Powell for the defendant.
Eliza Sing stated she knew the defendant, and also his late wife ; she came to Launceston about two years ago and died, leaving behind her an infant, whom she bequeathed to her (witness’s) care; the defendant paid for the maintenance of his child regularly at first, but he had not contributed anything since last April ; owing to the delicate condition of the child’s health, witness charged him 10s per week for rearing it.
James Sing, husband of the last witness, asserted to having asked the defendant to contribute towards the support of his child, but he refused to do so ; he also told witness he could threw it into the streets.
Mr Powell stated that his client was a poor man and could not afford to pay 10s per week. The reason lie allowed the case to come before the Court was so that the Bench might fix a weekly sum, to be paid for his child’s support.
The Bench ordered the defendant to contribute 6s per week towards his child’s maintenance, and to enter into his own recognizance in the sum of £25, and also find one surety in the same amount, as a guarantee for payment of the amount.
Launceston Examiner, 20 August 1881

DISGRACEFUL CONDUCT-Information has been supplied to us of a very disgraceful affair that occurred yesterday afternoon in Wellington-street, and which illustrates the singular proneness of some persons to seek pleasure in molesting and annoying foreigners, particularly those hailing from the Flowery Land. The Sunday school in connection with the Mission Church had just been closed, when on reaching the street some of the scholars attacked three children of Mr. James Sing, of George-street-two boys and one girl. The assailants numbered some twenty, amongst them being youths of 17 and 18 years of age. The father of the persecuted children is a Chinaman, and has been living in Launceston five or six years ; whilst the mother is a respectable Englishwoman. The children, ‘who also attended the Mission Sunday-school, were assailed with bricks, stones, and anything which came to hand,’ and ‘sustained injuries. One of the lads was struck twice with a missile on the arm, which last night was swollen considerably; the other children also being hit several times. It is strange and humiliating that such things can be done in our midst, more especially by those who call themselves Christians, and attend a place where brotherly love is inculcated. Our readers will not be surprised to learn that it is the intention of the father, should similar treatment be experienced again, to take his wrongs to the Police Court for remedy. As the names of the offenders are known, they are indebted to the forbearance of those they so cowardly persecuted that they have not to answer for their conduct of yesterday.
Launceston Examiner, 13 August 1883


DEATH: Eliza Sing, Launceston district, 1887


Daily Telegraph, 10 November 1887


Daily Telegraph, 2 January 1888


Launceston Examiner, 19 November 1890

Ovel

Tried Port Louis, 2 December 1843
Arrived Ocean Queen, 3 April 1844
“Killing my master by striking him on the head”
Native Place: China
Labourer

Conduct Record
Indent

19 March 1851 charged with “Absconding & remaining at large until apprehended on board the “Shamrock” being there with intent to leave the Colony.

A DISAPPOINTED EMIGRANT.-A Chinese was ushered into the presence of the police magistrate on Tuesday morning, charged as an absconder. He arrived by the coach on the previous night; and from, a description hastily drawn up and forwarded, Mr. Davis suspected him to be a prisoner of the crown named Ovel, (transported for life from Mauritius for cutting up murdered children and making them into pies,) who absconded from the service of Mr. Webb, confectioner, of Murray-street, Hobart Town, on Monday morning. The prisoner had taken his passage by the Shamrock, and had obtained a special clearance under the name of Assa Eugene. He was remanded to give time for further enquiry. With reference to the horrible offence imputed to the prisoner, the police magistrate believed he was not the perpetrator of the revolting and bloody crimes mentioned by the chief district constable; that such crimes had been committed at the Mauritius was, however, a fact; and it was equally true that the debased and guilty wretch who committed them was in this island. Children in his neighborhood at Mauritius were missed, and finger bones and other unemployed portions of human beings were round on the premises, but no direct proof of the offence could be obtained, otherwise a different punishment had been inflicted. The perpetrator of these diabolical crimes was convicted for a minor offence, and transported for life to this colony. He would.be a meet companion for Annette Meyers.
Launceston Examiner, 19 March 1851 (second page)

Ovelle, p. h., a Chinese in the service of Mr. Webb, the Pastry. Cook, was charged by his master with refusing to work. By permission of the Magistrate, Mr. Brewer defended the prisoner. It appeared, from Mr. Webb’s statement, that he had originally hired the prisoner at the Comptroller General’s Office for twelve months, which bad expired a short time ago ; after that, Mr. Webb entered into another engagement with the Assistant Comptroller General, Mr. Nairne, for twelve months longer, raising the prisoner’s wages to j£40 a year. The prisoner however refused to work, as he considered his time was up, and wanted go to another place. In answer to Mr. Brewer, Mr. Webb stated, that no written agreement had been entered into on either occasions, nor was the prisoner present, when the engagement was made ; the prisoner bad been in Mr. Webb’s Service since he had been in the country, and had never been in the Barracks. Mr. Brewer, then contended that, as there was no written agreement there could be no service : the regulations provided, that an agreement should be entered into, which had not been done in this case. Mr. Wilmot said, that, according to the regulations, unless a passholder could get higher wages, he was bound to serve his present master: he, Mr. Wilmot, was clearly of opinion that the prisoner was in Mr. Webb’s service. It was then arranged that, the prisoner should return to his service, and on that condition he, at Mr. Webb’s request, was merely admonished.
Hobarton Guardian, 29 January 1853

`
Note at end of Conduct Record

Lu Puh, a Chinese Burial (Charles Street, Launceston)

INTERMENT OF THE REMAINS OF LU PUH. —The conduct of the countrymen of the Chinese digger Lu Puh, whose murdered remains were discovered at Back Creek is highly creditable to them. They were discovered by Lee Hung, the leader of part of six men at work at Back Creek, and during the excitement which prevailed until after the inquest, all tho witnesses and other visitors at the inquest were treated with liberal hospitality by Lee Hung. He and his countrymen defrayal all expenses incurred in the removal of the body to town and its internment. The remains were covered with calico, over which were placed a shirt, hat, trousers, socks and pair of buff slippers, but no coat, the deceased having been killed when at work. What use the spirit of the deceased maybe make of his new suit, Confucius only knows, but the liberality of his friends is not lessened by the apparent, absurdity of supplying such a costume for use in another sphere. The coffin was conveyed to the cemetery, Mulgrave-square, four Chinese following in a car. After careful interment, but without any ceremony, a board was placed at the top of the grave bearing this inscription in Chinese characters :– La Puh, native of Canton, discovered murdered at Back Creek, or 29th October, 1873.” Lee Hung has since ordered a tombstone to be prepared to be substituted for the board, and he is at present at work at the stores of Messrs. Peters, Barnard and Co. making a substantial wooden fence to surround the grave of his countryman. We fear that few Europeans would be found acting so disinterestedly, and doing so much for the honor and comfort of a dead countryman as the much abused “Heathen Chinese”.
Cornwall Chronicle, 14 November 1873


Charles Street Cemetery Company Treasurer’s Register,
AF191-1-1