Strange happenings emerge with a rare find in my local country library of a book, published over 40 years ago in Tasmania, with some first-hand details of the early days of the British settlement of Australia.
This book then disappeared from the shelves and from the catalogue, as if it never existed.
The author, Mabel Hookey, relates her personal knowledge of a mystery involving a Dr Desailly who, it was said, had been a physician at the court of King George IV and that his wife was a Lady in Waiting to the Queen.
“There was a certain cachet about the Desaillys,” wrote Hookey, “and a hint of strangeness as of exotic birds blown from their
course by adverse winds.”
“What were they doing in this antipodean outpost? They held no official position, nor were they of the free settlers who were beginning to trickle into the colony. They did not swell the ranks of those unfortunates [convicts] who had left their country for their country’s good, nor were they political exiles.
“A vessel under special charter brought them to Van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania], and they always had plenty of money, derived from a mysterious pension, paid regularly and with great secrecy.” (1)
Right there in my small local country library I found a numbered limited edition copy – number 365 of only 750 copies printed – of a book published in Tasmania in 1970 titled ‘The Chaplain: Being Some Further Account of the Days of Bobby Knopwood’ by Mabel Hookey. The Reverend Knopwood (illustrated above) was the first chaplain of Tasmania.
We meet him again later in ‘The Mystery of Granny’s Ghost’ under quite different circumstances as the mystery deepens.
I went back to borrow the book again to check on the material I am quoting here only to find that it was no longer in the library catalogue or on the shelves, having sat there for possibly the last forty years. I wrote to the publisher in Tasmania requesting permission to quote from the book and received no reply. It was as if the book had never existed.
Mabel Hookey provided me with the perfect opening to my story, setting the scene for the mystery that had unfolded for me at a time when I was living in a friend’s old caravan, homeless, penniless, alone after my one-man freelance copywriting business was declared bankrupt.
I’d thought my life was over. Not at all. What happened then is all revealed in my book, in intimate detail.
In her Foreword Hookey explains that the “diaries and bundles of old letters and papers on which I have drawn for my subject matter were bought by my grandfather, George Stokell, at the sale of Knopwood’s effects and were for many years stowed away in a cupboard at his home, Rokeby House. Most of them have found their way to the Mitchell Library, Sydney. The rest are still in my possession.”
I go on to explore Hookey’s speculation as to the nature of the mystery and why the Desaillys might have been banished from England and I too add my contribution in the light of granny’s ghost and my own story and researches.
So what’s the big mystery?
Get the book, CLICK HERE.
(1) ‘The Chaplain: Being Some Further Account of the Days of Bobby Knopwood’ by Mabel Hookey, Fuller’s Bookshop, Tasmania, 1970. Pages 177-9
(Illustrated above): Painting of Robert Knopwood (1763-1835)