Peter Burns

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There were many characters in St. Helen’s Tasmania when we arrived on our yacht Joker having sailed down from Sydney to find out how the other world lived.

‘Joker”the boat we sailed to Tasmania


You take life somewhat for granted in those halcyon days rooming the east coast of Australia looking for the perfect place to stay.
For us once past the treacherous barway and following the leads that led us to the Township of St. Helens I said to Ann this looked like the place we were seeking. 
One of those personalities was Peter Burns. Over the years I have been blessed with seeing Peter and his wife Sue from time to time. But alas I must now admit that the labour of my life getting Eureka Farm up and running and keeping it going has often taken precedence over other things. ( my family surely will vouch for this confession)
Never the less for me Peter was an impressive fellow. Some may be surprised when I say I liked his straight shooting nature . As I got to know him it also became apparent that Peter’s way of doing things could ruffle feathers. 

Peter came to help me put the fame back together after the 2006 bushfires came to “Scamander.

The chronological sequence may be slightly askew as I recount now some of my experiences. Peter and his first wife had decided that the history of this area should be recorded. In what was later to become the St. Helen’s History room was established in the section of the same building that is now the Online Centre. Denny and Joy Walters, Jack and Dorothy Sutten, Ted Clayton and lots more were early enthusiasts. It was by no means an old mans club , all seem to be doing research on family histories using donated Apple computers or whatever. Material in the way of documents, momentos, artifacts and tools of bygone eras appeared. 
And it wasn’t confined to just backroom research. Peter felt the need to know all about the earlier tin mining history which was really the main industry and employer in this part of the world. Tin mining to some extent was just like gold mining. You could become wealthy or as often happened you just survived. There were great mines established such as the Anchor mine and trails leading to all the diggings. One trail that I know about was the Three Knots Trail which starts at the top of the Blue Tiers and goes north I believe to Boobyalla. 
Peter decided that we must find and mark the trail for future generations. I guess it wasn’t his first trip and so tramping the first part of the trail wasn’t very demanding for us. On the trip Denny Walters, Allan Woods from the Bush Mill , George Keri a photographer from Scamander , myself and a couple of others accompanied Peter. The trail goes skirts Mt. Michael and then descend into a beautiful rainforest. Myrtles, sassafras , celery top and more. The trail in place is stabilised with poles laid across the trail where it could be muddy. Slot cuts where the miners were working, concrete emplacements for pump housings, washed out dams that fed the sluices can all be seen if you are willing to look. And yes the track is so named Three Knots as this is what you see on the trees so that you don’t get lost. And that is just what happened to us. The knots disappeared and we  went on in what we thought would be the right direction. I consider myself a reasonable bushman but my experience finding your way in  rainforest isn’t strong. We got lost and night was descending. George was everyone’s favorite as he came prepared but just before night descended we found a knot.
Yes I was getting to know Peter. He spurred us all into looking into our history. One day Peter came to me with a plan. He wanted to promote tourism in St. Helens. He maintained that no one was going to do anything about it so he would. Yes Peter could be determined. (possibly an understatement). Would I help by using my yacht to promote the beautiful bay of St. Helens. No problem. We arrived on the appropriate day and Peter had arranged I think for Channel Ten to make the film and show it for a series of weeks on their station. (maybe the video is in someone’s archives but there seems to be little record of it on the internet). Well we get everything ready and there isn’t a drop of wind. A yacht drifting across the bay with limp sails is hardly going to impress tourists into visiting. Peter yells out form the wharf a big strong voice ‘ do something- I haven’t organised this for nothing’. Ok start the motor , complete a long circle to allow me to go full speed past the wharf. The sails fill, we lean on the opposite side and the video turns out great.
Somehow in our community people have trouble honoring the doers especially the ones that step on toes. Peter Burns is one such person. His efforts to do good things for St. Helen’s should have been recognised by those in control. We will miss you Peter. They don’t make them like that any more.

About Denis Buchanan

Once upon a time I was a Chemical Engineer now I am a born again Farmer. The transition was really quite easy with the major change that the life of feasibility studies has ended and any experiment that I wish to undertake is at my peril.

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