AUSTRALIAN STORY: Author and historian Barbara Appleton with a copy of her book, Tracking Mr Sharpe, with the Cambridge Dictionary of Australian Places.
AUSTRALIAN STORY: Author and historian Barbara Appleton with a copy of her book, Tracking Mr Sharpe, with the Cambridge Dictionary of Australian Places.

Reverend made his mark along historic trail

TRACKING Mr Sharpe - it's a great title for a murder-mystery novel, but in fact it's the historical account of the Reverend Thomas Sharpe.

His is not one of the big names of Australian early settlement, but as author and historian Barbara Appleton discovered through her interest in the Convict Trail Project, he made his mark.

The Convict Trail Project, which Barbara has been involved with since 2006, aims to protect the 240km Great North Road from Sydney to the Hunter.

Built by convict labour between 1826 and 1836, it is labelled "one of the 19th century's greatest engineering feats in Australia" and was meant to show England just how strong and successful the colony was.

Such was the reverend's status that a track named in his honour - Mr Sharpe's Track - still survives at Wisemans Ferry, near Tobruk Station.

Just the second government chaplain appointed to Wisemans Ferry, Mr Sharpe lived in a small cottage on the banks of the Hawkesbury from 1830-37, being rowed between chapels by convicts.

He was then transferred to Norfolk Island for four years before moving to Bathurst in 1841, where he founded the Anglican parish and was responsible for building the original All Saints Anglican Church, which became the cathedral.

"He lived until almost 80 in 1877 and I started looking at convict conditions and how chaplains coped in those days," Barbara said.

With a background in research and publishing with her husband Richard - a poet and editor of the Australian Encyclopaedia - the Buff Point resident said she had thoroughly enjoyed her year of researching Mr Sharpe.

She and Richard co-authored 1992's Cambridge Dictionary of Australian Places.

Barbara also supervised the posthumous publication of Richard's memoirs by Sydney University Press in 2009, detailing his life after being orphaned at 10, naval college, and the bohemian days of The Sydney Push, mixing with the likes of Les Murray, Clive James and Germaine Greer.

Despite all this, she said she still found it "a little hard to believe" when she held the first copy of Tracking Mr Sharpe, published by Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury Historical Society, thanks to a grant by Create NSW.

Royal Australian Historical Society president Christine Yeats launched the book at the Wisemans Ferry Community Centre. The venue was chosen to reflect the local society's support.

Barbara also thanked Yvonne Sorensen for her illustrations, and the support of the National Trust and the heritage-listed Miss Traill's House museum in Bathurst, where the Reverend lived.

Info/order a copy ($25 plus p&h), email or phone 0404272969.

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