Tall tales and tall trees in local author’s new book

THE iconic poplars of the Derwent Valley provide not just the title but a backdrop for a series of great valley stories told by architect-turned-author Tim Hurburgh in his newly released book, Tall Poplars. A collection of seven short stories based on Tasmanian historic events, people and places – all laced with a dash of imagination – the book is enhanced by the inspiring images of photographers Matt Sansom, Adam Gibson, Chris Shurman and Hugh James.

Tim grew up near the River Derwent at Rosetta before studying architecture at Harvard in the United States and running two successful architectural practices in Melbourne. He now lives on a grazing property at Ouse where the old smithy features brands seared on a timber wall, a record of the history of the valley which has found its way into Tim’s book.

Ouse author Tim Hurburgh at his book launch at Willow Court.

Tim says there are some great Derwent Valley stories that have not been told and he has tried to bring some of them to life, mostly based on fact but lightly embellished with a touch of imagination. They’re universal stories with universal themes, engaging with people living outside the state, as well as Tasmanians.

“We live up a gravel road outside Ouse, close to a state forest that would have been inhabited by indigenous Tasmanians,” he said. “A block close to where we live is owned by a couple who have set up a ‘bush camp’ that could easily have been used by the Aboriginal people. I have invented a dialogue between them,” he said.

Tim’s stories bring readers into the orbit of Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin and their 1842 expedition to Macquarie Harbour and to the modest hut of a former convict, Old Jim, and the hard life of his son, a trapper known as Young Will, today’s “greenie”. Tasmanian architecture is explored in the churches and bridges of John Lee Archer, and Tim’s love of timber is captured in the Derwent Valley’s own oast houses, “the timber behemoths”.

Tall Poplars – a pun on the Australian slang phrase “tall poppies” – was launched at the Barracks Art Centre in New Norfolk on November 23. The launch was hosted by Alexander Okenyo of Black Swan Bookshop., who is also stocking the book at his premises in Stephen St, New Norfolk.


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