Enoch Eley was born in 1856, the oldest son of two ex-convicts, Frederick and Mary, who lived in Ross. By 1859 his father, a shoemaker, was declared insolvent. A year later his father was charged and sentenced to a further fifteen years for armed robbery. Enoch went to Ross School before taking his father’s trade of shoemaker. By 1921 he was the Librarian of the Ross Public Library, and his daughter was a music teacher at the school. His son, a clerk, enlisted in World War One only to be killed in action a few months later.

Frederick Eley book prize 1Frederick jnr was born in 1871, presumably after his father had served his second sentence. In 1884, aged 13, Frederick was awarded ‘In the Tropical Regions’ as First Prize for Mathematics at Ross School by his teacher William Barnett. Mr Barnett seems to have had a good idea of what kind of book might appeal to young boys as this book is packed with jaguars, pumas, crocodiles and other exotic animals. His father Frederick snr died in 1885, and his mother Mary had to sell her furniture to meet his debts, which meant that Frederick’s education would then have come to an end.

As public school generally ended at age 13, and Mrs Eley wouldn’t have been able to afford to send him to a private secondary school, Frederick worked variously as a quarryman in Walker’s Quarry, and as a saddler, before enlisting for World War One, aged 44. This son of a Van Dieman’s Land convict lived to see World War Two, and died in Hobart in 1950, aged 80.

The story of these two brothers suggests at how the Ross School succeeded in its first task, at ‘lifting up’ the children of convicts and offering them opportunities unknown to their parents.

Mr E E Eley, Librarian at RossImage: ‘Mr E E Eley, Librarian at Ross, where there is a good library.’ Weekly Courier, 2 June 1921, reproduced courtesy of the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.




Book: ‘In the Tropical Regions: or nature and natural history in the Torrid Zones’, published by T Nelson and Sons London. Donated by Llewellyn David.

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