James William Filleul
James William Filleul started his career in Jersey as a carpenter but later went to sea and became second mate on a ship which called at Launceston in Tasmania during the Australian gold rush of the 1850s.
The lure of gold was too much for him and two other ship's officers and, hoping to make their fortunes on the gold fields on the mainland, they deserted their ship, as did thousands of seamen in those days. His two fellow deserters were captured and he, in hiding, saw them handcuffed by the police and taken back to the ship.
After the ship had left James gave himself up to police. What penalty, if any, he had to pay is not on record. But Tasmania attracted him so much that, instead of going off to look for gold, he took up farming, growing potatoes as some farmers did in Jersey.
He spent most of the rest of his life on Benacre farm at Kondred, near Forth.
James married Jane Firier Howison in 1860 at Forth, in northwest Tasmania. Jane had arrived with her family from Scotland on the Forest Monarch in 1857 at the age of 13.
James and Jane first lived at Corn Brook Farm, part of the first parcel of land later to be included in Ben Acre, Kindred Road, which he farmed successfully for many years. The land at Ben Acre was exceptionally good and was known to produce 75 bushells of grain to the acre. He imported the first reaper and binder ever to be used on the North West Coast. which created great interest as people came from miles around to see it.
They had 15 children, of whom 14 survived, and their descendants are scattered over a wide area of northern Tasmania and beyond.
In the late 1860s his carpentry skills were put to good use on The Sailors Return Inn at Turners Beach, where he added a top storey and a bay window. At this time the Inn was renamed Leith House and later The Gables, and is now National Trust classified.
James assisted in surveying the Main Coast Road from Don to Forth, and for many years held a seat on the Road Trust. He was a Grand Master, Trustee and Charter Member of the Forth Lodge, and took a keen interest in politics. He was also a deacon of the Congregational church at Forth for 47 years and through his active involvement in community affairs was highly regarded and respected as a pioneer of Forth’s early history.
Eventually James moved to a farm at Forth which he called Verclut after his birthplace in Jersey. Verclut cottage was a distinctive Gothic house and stood on the western side of Forth township.
James passed away in his sleep at Verclut, Forth, on 26 May 1913 aged 79 years. Jane, his wife, survived for another 22 years and was 91 when she died.