The incredibly diverse and unique geographical and architectural features of or place remind us of the people who shaped the landscape of our modern lives today. 

Tommeginer people

The land on which the Wynyard Municipality now stands once belonged to the Tommeginer tribe of Table Cape.  They were one of the eight tribes that made up the north west linguistic group of Aborigines, a loose knit, social and economic confederation of maritime tribes that occupied a coastal strip extending from Table Cape to Cape Grim, and then down the West Coast to just north of the Macquarie Harbour.  These tribes, each led by a chieftain, numbered between 60 and 120 people and consisted of a number of hearth groups or families who shared the same hut and campfires.  Shelter for the North West Tribes consisted of permanent beehive huts at least 10 feet in diameter and 6 feet in height. 

There is little left to remind us of the Tommeginer people’s long-standing occupation now, apart from middens along the coast and Aboriginal fish traps, such as the excellent example at Freestone Cove at Fossil Bluff.  These remains are reminders that as maritime people, seafood provided a major and essential part of their diet. 

Women, who were expert divers and swimmers, played the dominant role in gathering sea bird eggs, hunting seals and diving for shellfish.  The women would manufacture baskets woven from cutting-grass or kelp for purpose of gathering the rich supply of food that would have been found in the coastal water at that time (eg. crayfish, mussels, abalone, oysters). 

Tommeginer people could make fire by using white quartz and fungus off a myrtle tree as tinder, but would carry a fire stick for convenience.  Hunting for Kangaroos and Wallaby was a male activity, with the spear being the principal tool.  Although the use of the throwing stick was unknown in Tasmania, they were expert hunters and their skill with spear is well documented. 

On the arrival of spring, when the Blackwood flowered, the Tommeginer people would leave their tribal territory and travel westward to Cape Grim and Robbins Island, to meet up with the other tribes of the North West.  These gatherings were occasions for corroborees and also provided an opportunity for young people to meet prospective marriage partners.  Unlike corroborees on the mainland, these corroborees were family affairs, with men, women and children all participating, and they were held under the full moon because of the spiritual significance that the stars, constellations and moon held.

(Credit: Turning back to Tommeginer Time” Exhibition – Table Cape Primary School)

Modern History

Table Cape is situated 7 kms north of Wynyard on Tasmania’s north west coast. This spectacular flat-topped promontory with a sheer drop to the sea was discovered and named by Matthew Flinders in 1798, when he and George Bass, in the sloop Norfolk, were engaged in determining whether Van Diemen’s Land was indeed an island not connected to mainland Australia.

The first settlements around Wynyard were named Table Cape.

On May 2nd, 1827, explorer and surveyor Henry Hellyer named the Inglis river after James Inglis, a director of his superiors, the Van Diemen’s Land Company (large property holders at Circular Head).

As the V.D.L. Co. did not acquire any of this district under its right of selection, it was left to individual settlers to take up the heavily timbered and fertile country.

The first settler at Table Cape, was John King, who had been a farmer at Dunedin near Launceston. In 1841, King selected 200 acres of land on the northern banks of the Inglis, including the area now used by the Wynyard Golf Club.

About 1851 a small settlement grew up just north of the present Table Cape bridge. Joseph Alexander built a hotel with bricks made of clay obtained from the side of a nearby road. Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) the founder of the universal Alexander Technique was born at Table Cape.

 In 1853 the first of several timber mills were constructed and trade was buoyant with Victorian ports during their gold rush, providing much needed timber and produce which was exported from a wharf in the river.

Messrs. J. Stutterd and Sons occupied the eastern side of Camp Creek with jetty, wharf, shop, store and residence from the mid 1860’s. Houses and public buildings were erected in the immediate neighbourhood. This bustling new township was named Wynyard.

Wynyard was named after General Edward Buckley Wynyard, who arrived in Sydney as Commanding Officer of the British troops and had visited Van Diemen’s Land in 1850 when the surveyor Peter Lette surveyed the town reserve.

Table Cape Lighthouse was constructed in 1888 and converted to automatic acetylene in 1920. The last lighthouse keeper was withdrawn in 1923 and the cottages were demolished in 1926. In 1979 the beacon was converted to electricity. Over the years the land north of the Inglis River and on top of Table Cape was cleared of large trees, uncovering the beautiful red loam soil suitable for the growing of potatoes, peas, onions and corn and the raising of sheep and cattle.  More recently, Table Cape has become famous for the spectacular rows of vibrant tulips each spring.