Captain Hector Axup and the French lady of Green Island, 1888

CAPTAIN Hector C. AXUP (1843-1927) and the S.S. Linda
Mrs Elizabeth ROBINSON of GREEN ISLAND, formerly Davis and Virieux (born Perrin, Mauritius 1824)

The resources in this article contain offensive language and negative stereotypes. Such primary historical documents should be seen in the context of the period and as a reflection of attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times.  The items are part of the historical record, and do not represent the views of this weblog.  Images in this article represent deceased people of indigenous communities. Viewing such images may cause sadness and distress. Proceeding is your responsibility.

Bass Strait island groups Google maps 2021

The Furneaux Group, incl Green Island

The Furneaux Group is a group of approximately 100 islands located at the eastern end of Bass Strait, between Victoria and Tasmania, Australia. The islands were named after British navigator Tobias Furneaux, who sighted the eastern side of these islands after leaving Adventure Bay in 1773 on his way to New Zealand to rejoin Captain James Cook.[1] Navigator Matthew Flinders was the first Westerner to explore the Furneaux Islands group in the Francis in 1798, and later that year in the Norfolk.[2]

The largest islands in the group are Flinders Island, Cape Barren Island, and Clarke Island. The group contains five settlements: Killiecrankie, Emita, Lady Barron, Cape Barren Island, and Whitemark on Flinders Island, which serves as the administrative centre of the Flinders Council. There are also some small populated ranches on the remote islands.

The Furneaux Group of islands became the most intensively exploited sealing ground in Bass Strait after seals were discovered there in 1798.[3] A total of 29 islands in the Furneaux Group have been found to have some tangible link with sealing in the 19th century.[4]

The Aboriginal woman Dolly Dalrymple was born in the area.[5]

King Island, at the western end of Bass Strait, is not a part of the group.

By Paweł Grzywocz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Source: Furneaux Group

The Big Green Island, part of the Big Green Group within the Furneaux Group, is a 122-hectare (300-acre) granite island with limestone and dolerite outcrops, located in Bass Strait west of Flinders Island, in Tasmania, in south-eastern Australia.[1] The island is partly contained within a nature reserve with the rest being used for farming;[2] and is part of the Chalky, Big Green and Badger Island Groups Important Bird Area.[3]

Besides the Big Green Island, other islands that comprise the Big Green Group include the Chalky, East Kangaroo, Isabella, Little Chalky and Mile islands.

Recorded breeding seabird and wader species are the little penguin, short-tailed shearwater, Pacific gull, silver gull, sooty oystercatcher, pied oystercatcher, black-faced cormorant and Caspian tern. Cape Barren geese also breed on the island. Reptiles present include the metallic skink and Bougainville’s skink. Rats are common.[2]
Location of the Big Green Island in Bass Strait
Coordinates 40°10′48″S 147°58′12″ECoordinates: 40°10′48″S 147°58′12″E
Archipelago Big Green Group, part of the Furneaux Group
Area 122 ha (300 acres)
Administration Australia Tasmania

Source: Big Green Island

The Kent Group

The Kent Group are a grouping of six granite islands located in Bass Strait, north-west of the Furneaux Group in Tasmania, Australia.[2] Collectively, the group is comprised within the Kent Group National Park.[1]

The islands were named Kent’s Group by Matthew Flinders, “in honour of my friend captain William Kent, then commander of Supply” when Flinders passed them on 8 February 1798 in Francis (on her way to salvage Sydney Cove).[3]

The largest island in the group is Deal Island; the others, in order of descending size, are Erith Island, Dover Island, North East Isle, South West Isle and Judgement Rocks.


Captain Hector Axup and the “Linda”
British-born Captain Hector Axup arrived in Tasmania in 1876, married Mary Sophia Day (sister of photographer Thomas Nevin’s wife Elizabeth Rachel Day) at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart in 1878, fathered an illustrious family, enjoyed a long career in maritime service, and died in Launceston, Tasmania in 1927. A few months before his death he published a “unique booklet” titled The Reminiscences of an ‘Old Salt’ of 83 Years by H. C. Axup (Launceston, ca. 1926) with this photo of himself on the front cover:

At his capstan:
Hector Charles James Horatio Axup (1843-1927)
Undated and unattributed, ca. 1880s.
Photo courtesy and copyright © Suzy Baldwin.

Captain H. C. Axup 1884-1887

  1. Leading light
    MB2-20-1-2, pp. 62-64$so=62-64
  2. Leading light
    MB2-20-1-2, pp. 67-70$so=67-70
  3. Kent’s Group
    MB2-20-1-2, pp 149-157$so=149-157

Trouble emerging with Captain Axup … p. 157 Kent’s Group

Axup, Hector C
Record Type: Employment
Employer: Marine Board of Hobart
Occupation : Mariner
Age: 40
Property: Kent’s Group Lighthouse
Employment dates: Jul 1884 to May 1885, Jun 1885 to May 1887
Remarks: Married
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1737222
Archives Office of Tasmania

Captain Hector Axup was appointed by the Marine Board to the post of senior assistant at “Kent’s Group” as the islands were called, in June 1885 (Hobart Mercury 11 June 1885). But in 1887 his dismissal was recommended by the Marine Board service on several counts: “leaving his station without permission”; language and conduct “most disrespectful and irritating, tending to subvert discipline on the station.”(Hobart Mercury July 1887).

The MASTER WARDEN brought up the report of the sub-committee appointed to investigate charges made against Assistants Axup and Herbert as follows :

“Your committee, having attentively perused the numerous documents connected with these two cases have arrived at the following conclusions :-

“1. With regard to Assistant Herbert they find that, having left his station with-out permission, his conduct is highly reprehensible, and recommend that his services be dispensed with ; also that his pay be continued to the end of June, from which the passage money of himself and his wife be deducted.”

“2. With regard to Assistant Axup, your committee find him guilty of a breach of the regulations in leaving his station without permission from the head keeper. They also find his language and conduct to have been most disrespectful and irritating, tending to subvert discipline on the station.”

“They therefore recommend that he be dismissed from the service. His agent having received his pay up to the end of May, and the passage of himself, wife, and family having been paid by the board, the committee cannot recommend that any further remuneration should be made to him.”

“They also suggest that, as there have been many changes among the subordinates at Kent’s Group Station during the last few years, the head keeper should-be removed to another charge nearer Hobart at an early opportunity.”

Captain Axup’s dismissal from service
Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Saturday 16 July 1887, page 1

Within months Captain Axup was back at sea. He took command of the Linda fresh off the stocks at Dog Island, Bass Strait , trading between the Kent and Furneaux islands and Launceston. In 1888 he submitted an account of the history and management of Green Island by its inhabitants in the Furneaux Group to the Launceston Examiner (see transcript below). In March 1889 he was stationed back at Low Head Pilot Station (Tamar River, Georgetown, Tasmania) where his daughter Patience Ella Mary Axup was born (b.1889 – d.1913), the fourth of five children born to his wife Mary Sophia Day and the third born at Georgetown. By 1900 he was once more at sea trading up the NSW coast to the south island of New Zealand as chief mate on the barque Acacia.

LINDA 50 gross tons, 41 net. on79283. Originally built as a steamship at Dog Island, Bass Strait, 1887. Lbd: 72’5″ x 17’8″ x 6’2″. Engine removed 1895 and auxiliary oil engine installed 1905 when sold to Holymans. Registered at Launceston July 1905. 1909 ran ashore at Little Dog Island in Bass Strait. April 1929, sank off Newnham Creek. Seems to have changed owners a few times until a return to Holymans in 1930. Hulked and scuttled on the west bank of the Tamar River, Tasmania with register closed 3 August 1939.


Ketch Linda Abandoned (1929, May 10). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 7.


Ketch Linda Abandoned
The auxiliary ketch Linda, belonging to A. V. Holyman and Sons Ltd., was extensively damaged when she was carried three miles down the Tamar by the recent floods and sunk. After many attempts the vessel was raised and placed in dry dock on Wednesday last. This permitted a thorough examination to be made yesterday, with the result that her owners decided not to repair her for trade again, but to abandon her. Arrangements will be made as soon as possible for a vessel to take her place in the Launceston, St. Helens and Straits Islands service. The Linda was one of the oldest coastal vessels trading to the port. She was built at Dog Island, Bass Strait, of oak grown on the island, in 1887 by the late Mr. J. Willett for the late Mr. Robert Gardner, of Launceston, who had a boiler and engines installed. She traded between Launceston and the Straits Islands for many years, and for a time was in charge of the late Captain H. C. Axup. Some years ago she was purchased by Messrs. Holyman mid Sons, who discarded the steam boiler and engines, and installed an oil engine. They employed her carrying cargo to the outlying Islands of the straits, also to Woolnorth and Robins Islands, in the north-west, and to St. Helens.

Captain Axup and the Linda
Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Friday 10 May 1929, page 7

Linda. Auxiliary ketch, 50/41 tons. # 79283. Built at Dog Island, Bass Strait, 1887; reg. Launceston 7/1905. Lbd 72.5 x 17.8 x 6.2 ft. Scuttled on the west bank of the Tamar River, Tasmania; register closed 3 August 1939.
In April 1929, sank off Newnham Creek.
In 1909, ashore at Little Dog Island in Bass Strait. [TS2]
Also listed:
Linda. Ketch. Owned by William Holyman & Son. Wrecked in the Tamar at Launceston, 1919 or 1929. [RW – has contradictory dates in the same publication]

Source: Tasmanian Shipwrecks

Kent Group, c1891
Photograph by John Watt Beattie, in Crowther album 3 No. 10.
W.L. Crowther Library, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office

Captain Hector Axup and the French Lady of Green Island

Captain Hector Axup ‘s account of Green Island
A PRODUCTIVE ISLAND. (1888, October 19). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), p. 3.
Link: (extract above)


A PRODUCTIVE ISLAND. Captain H. C. Axup, of the steamer Linda, has furnished the following interesting account of Green Island :-

” In compliance with a request to furnish any information in my power concerning the island to which the S. S. Linda is a regular trader, I the more cheerfully comply from a firm conviction that the lovely archipelago known as the Furneaux Group, and others adjacent, all dependencies of Tasmania, are destined to become important in the not distant future, and it seems lamentable that so little is known by the general public of their general attributes, including the genial climate, health-giving properties, and power of production. To commence with, the island most recently visited, viz., Green Island – aptly named, its verdant slope forming a conspicuous landmark for mariners. It lies in lat. 40’11 south, and 147-59 east long.; in length about one mile and a half, by half a mile wide; its highest summit about 50ft above sea level; area, 350 acres. It is a remarkable island in more ways than one. Formerly a rabbit warren and mutton bird rookery (which perhaps accounts for its rich soil), it has gained a well-earned notoriety under the able management of the present proprietress (of whom more anon) for its extraordinary sheep-fattening properties. Yet this seemed an apparent paradox, for until a comparatively recent date not a blade of grass was visible, although it always bore the palm for the fattest sheep. Many interested in sheep farming paid it a visit for the purpose of solving the mystery. Upon questioning the lady above referred to (who by the way is French, and a devout Roman Catholic) as to what the animals fed on she replied, with the proverbial French gesture, that ‘God was good to give her sheep the instinct and feet which enabled them to dig for their food.’ They certainly thrive remarkably well upon whatever they dig up. One time she only kept a limited number, about 400, and these were all pets. To each of them she gave a French name; and each answered to it when called. About eight years since, one memorable morning, she was almost as much astounded as Robinson Crusoe at the ‘naked footprint’ to observe a narrow ridge of green grass close to the water’s edge, which has gradually extended until now it covers the whole of the island, embracing several varieties, but chiefly barley grass. This enabled her to augment the number to a thousand, all in excellent condition, and considered by a good authority to be a very large number per acre. However, the pets are a thing of the past, and I presume the great increase in numbers has exhausted the good lady’s stock of French names. But to return to the proprietress, whose career has rendered her not the least interesting feature of the island domain. The widow of a captain and owner of a smart bark which years ago traded between Australia and Mauritius, she was at one time well known in several of the seaport towns of Australia. Her stately figure rendered her conspicuous, and she was invariably accompanied with a pure bred Spanish poodle, and a black servant. From a life of almost oriental ease, she was left through the death of her husband to face the stern realities of the battle of life. She settled on what was then a barren and lonely isle, where with an adopted daughter, and no external aid, these two lone women commenced their hermit mode of existence. It would require the pen of a Dickens to do justice to the indomitable pluck and perseverance they displayed, and the massive stonewall fences which traverse the island in various directions are silent, yet speaking monuments of their untiring industry. The years have sped on each, at its close showing a marked improvement in the circumstances of the two recluses until now prosperity has rewarded their efforts. What was once a bleak and barren isle has been converted into a lovely arcadian abode. In conclusion I may add that the liberality of the lady of Green Island is proverbial, and many of the half castes on the adjacent lands will miss her benevolent aid when she, in course of time, shall be removed from amongst them.

Captain Axup’s account of Green Island in the Furneaux Group
Source: Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), Friday 19 October 1888, page 3

Indigenous Islanders Mutton-Birding, Chappell Island, Bass Strait, 1893
Photographer: A.J. Campbell
Source: Museums Victoria

Another account contemporaneous with Captain Hector Axup’s trading voyages to Green Island is by A. J. Campbell observed while on the Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria, Scientific Expedition to Kent Group Islands, 1890:

(By A Special Correspondent)
The Field Naturalist Club of Victoria first commenced a series of scientific expeditions to the islands in Bass Straits during November, 1887, when the Government of the day were good enough to allow the steamer Lady Lock to convey a party of 26 members (with Mr. A. J Campbell as leader to King Island).

Green Island, which is about two miles long, is covered by Mrs Robinson. Ere we have reached her garden gate with genuine hospitality and with uplifted hands she exclaims, ‘Welcome ! welcome!’ and we receive much attention and comfortable ‘shake downs’ for the night. We glean from Mrs Robinson some useful information in reference to the islands. She has resided upon Green Island for 27 years. During that period she and her people have killed no fewer than 900 snakes, about half that number being despatched during the first three or four years. Now instead of 900 venomous reptiles, 900 sheep graze upon the inlet.

Source: Field Naturalist Trip to the Furneaux Group, Part One, circa 1890

Off Green Island, Photograph Album Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria, Scientific Expedition to Kent Group Islands, Bass Strait, A J Campbell, 1890
URL: Photograph-album-field-naturalists-club-of-victoria-scientific-expedition-to-kent-group-islands-bass-strait-a-j-campbell-1890-377785-large
Photographer: A.J. Campbell
Source: Museums Victoria Field Naturalist Trip to the Furneaux Group, Part One, circa 1890

The Virieux Family

Photo: Elizabeth Matilda Robinson formerly Davis and Virieux, nee Perrin (b. Mauritius 1824)
Source: Source:

Date: 1853 –
Description: An archival album containing photographs and associated documents about the descendants of Elizabeth Matilda Robinson and her natural son by her first marriage, Jules Leon Virieux. Photographs extend to the seventh generation. Many of the descendants still live on Flinders Island. Elizabeth Matilda came to Goose Island with her second husband Captain Jeremiah Davis in 1853. Captain Davis was the Lighthouse keeper for Goose Island. In her final years Elizabeth Matilda lived on Green Island. Descendants include Holloway, Messner, Dargaville, Deeble, Hines, Pitchford, Wise families


Photo: Jules Leon Virieux.

Oral history
One of the most recent accounts of the lady of Green Island in Captain Axup’s story who was known as “Granny Robinson” in later years is from S. N. Brennan’s PhD thesis (2002) : –

Brennan, SN 2002 , ‘Island women : an oral history, 1910-1960‘,
PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

Pages 51-54:

Among the first Europeans to take up land after 1861 were the Holt brothers, Thomas Barrett, Henry Robinson, Elizabeth Davis (Robinson), Jules Virieux, Alexander Ross and the Davey and Maclaine families. 52

Early settlers tended to try to spread their holdings over several islands. For example, in 1883, Henry Robinson – brother to Maria Allen, had leasehold land on Tin Kettle, Woody, Chappell and Flinders Islands. The Barrett family, by the same time, had part leased and part purchased Little Green Island, leased Long Island, part of Babel and 50 acres of Chappell Island. A decade later they also had freehold land on Flinders Island.53

[Page 52 – paragraphs and footnotes 54 and 55 ellipted here]

Generally nineteenth and early twentieth century settlers were of English/Scots descent with a few of Irish origin. They came via Tasmania or mainland Australia or directly from England, Scotland or Ireland. The population was, therefore, made up either of people of Anglo-Celtic or mixed Anglo-Celtic/ Aboriginal descent. One notable exception was the Virieux family who came from Mauritius. While there is generally little detailed information about European woman living in Bass Strait in the nineteenth century, the one notable exception is Mrs Elisabeth Virieux, three times married and ancestor to many present day island residents. Her extraordinary life made her a Bass Strait legend.

A brief examination of Elisabeth Virieux’s life in the Furneaux Islands reveals that women could and did settle islands by themselves. To avoid confusion, her third husband’s name — Robinson — the name she is most commonly remembered by, will be used throughout the following account.

Mrs Robinson was born Elisabeth Matilda Perrin in Mauritius in 1824. She had a son, Jules Virieux, in Mauritius around 1840. Mrs Robinson was said to be the wife of a Captain Virieux but, according to Guiler and Guiler, no record has been located of the marriage or of a Captain Virieux in Lloyd’s Registers for the period.56

She met Captain James Davis in the 1840s and for some time travelled with him on his ship trading in Africa and Australia. In 1854 Captain Davis was appointed lighthouse keeper of the Goose Island lighthouse and so the couple arrived in the islands. Mrs Robinson’s two children, Jules and her adopted daughter Marie Antoinette (always known as Jane), came with them. Jane’s origin is uncertain. The most widely accepted story is that Mrs Robinson adopted her during her travels as the wife of Captain Davis. It is also commonly thought that she may have been the child of Mrs Robinson’s sister. As well, the suggestion that she might have been Mrs Robinson’s natural daughter has been made and, while less readily accepted by her descendants, it has not been refuted.57

Captain Davis died in 1864, which meant that Elisabeth and her children had to leave Goose Island. In 1865 she bought land on Green Island and moved there with her daughter Jane. The two women built a house for themselves, erected fences and stockyards, and planted gardens. As a young woman, Helen Cooper, Jane’s granddaughter, was told that initially when the two women moved to Green Island they squatted in a roofed rock shelter. 58. Jane and Elisabeth did a lot of the heavy work on the island. They had a liking for building stone walls, erecting several over the island. This may have also been a way of ridding the fields of stones. In 1879 Elisabeth married Henry Robinson, son of George Augustus Robinson and brother to Maria Allen. 59

Prior to her marriage to Henry Robinson, Elisabeth, with the help of Jane, had established a productive farm on Green Island. The two women purchased two boats that Jane could handle and that traded with Launceston. After her marriage to Henry Robinson, Mrs Robinson became known by people in the islands as ‘Granny Robinson’ and was famous for her hospitality. A superb cook, she was known to send out her two boats collecting all the young people from the surrounding islands for parties that lasted two to three days. Throughout her life she fostered a large number of children. 60

Diagram 3: Relationships of study participants descended or connected by marriage to Elisabeth Perrin. etc etc

52 Murray-Smith, THRA P&P, p. 184.
53 H.S, ‘Visit to the Islands in Bass Straits, With an Account of What I Saw and Heard There’, Launceston Examiner, Monday 28 May, 1883. ‘H.S.’ (a pseudonym) visited the Furneaux Islands in 1883 and stayed for several months. His observations were published in a weekly column in the Launceston Examiner, between April and June of 1883. See also Valuation Roll for District of Ringarooma, Hobart Gazette, 18 October. 1892
54 Gladys Robinson, interview, December, 2000.
55 Joan Blundstone, pers. comm., December 2001.
56 Eric Guiler & Lalage Guiler„ THRA P&P, vol. 39, no. 3, September, 1992, P. 127.
57 ibid., p. 128.
58 Helen Cooper, interview, August 1998. A woman who had been a governess in Jane Harley’s household on Kangaroo Island repeated this story to Helen Cooper.
59 Guiler & Guiler, THRA P&P, p. 132.
60 Murray-Smith, Mission to the Islands, Principal Personalities, p. xxviii.

Source: Brennan, SN 2002 , ‘Island women : an oral history, 1910-1960‘, PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

The earlier article referred to in this thesis is: –

The settlement of Big Green Island. -Tasmania –
Authors: Eric Guiler; Lalage Guiler
Papers and Proceedings: Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Vol. 39, No. 3, Sept 1992: 124-140

Convicts from Mauritius
A number of immigrants from Mauritius arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in the 1840s as prisoners. For example, Jerome Delphin and and his brother Augustus Delphin were both ex-apprentices of Joson Virieux, who may have been the elusive Captain Virieux, Elizabeth Robinson’s first husband. Augustus and Jerome Delphin were servants who stole ‘une malle’ [a trunk] and the objects locked in it including money belonging to Sieur Antoine Henry Peyronnet, ecclesiastical. They were tried in Grandport, Mauritius on 8th September 1843 and sentenced to 10 and 7 years respectively. They arrived in Van Diemen’s Land per the Ocean Queen from Hong Kong on 3rd April 1844. Being servant class in that period it is extremely likely that they were of (black) African heritage, according to this website: read more about these two Delphin brothers here.

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