Roger André

bibliophile, published by the Friends of the State Library of South Australia, vol 13, no 3, December 2013.

Bibliofile review

Comments by Chris Durrant

The review copies sent out by Wakefield Press may have lacked illustrations, index and family tree, but the book as published in late December 2013 is complete.

In response to textual matters raised by Mr André:

Genevieve Cooper

The Courier (Mt Barker), 29 January 2014. The photograph was taken on the Old Mount Barker Road looking over the site of Echunga Gardens.

Courier article


Comments by Chris Durrant

Iola was in fact the sole author of the book. I provided and checked what information I could, so I would be grateful to be notified of errors.

Nic Klaassen

Posted on the Flinders Ranges Research here.

Comments by Chris Durrant

This review provides links to other pages of the Flinders Ranges Research site which contain further useful information on the subjects.

Margaret Strickland

A review blog on the ReadPlus, a site for librarians, teachers and parents about books for young people aged 5 to 18, on 11 March 2014 here.

Maggie Tate

This review apeared in Global Media Post on 27 April 2014.

The title of the author’s entertaining history of her great-great grandfather John Barton Hack and his brother Stephen Hack is taken from Barton Hack’s reminiscences published by the Methodist Journal in 1877, ‘Chequered Career: Recollections of a Pioneer’.  The Hack brothers, Quakers from the southern English county of Hampshire, arrived within the first twelve months of the establishment of the colony of South Australia; a colony that was based on the Wakefield Scheme.  The Scheme’s managers were Commissioners based in England and they were supported in their finances by the South Australian Company.  The object was to sell land to free settlers to raise capital to secure labour through the free passage of emigrant workers to the colony.  In effect, the Colonial Office had full control but did not have to finance the colony. All land was Crown land and so the Scheme was based on the lie of terra nullius; Indigenous Australians were given rations and protection as compensation for their land rights.

The Hacks were sympathetic to the plight of Indigenous Australians as Quakers held an ethic of equal rights.  However, like other settlers they turned a blind eye to the issue of land ownership in the rush for acquisition of town land to establish businesses and rural land to set up farms. Initially, many settlers prospered not least the Hacks until the flaw in the Wakefield Scheme became obvious, there was no money for public spending on the infrastructure of roads, ports and bridges.  Hence, the glory days were succeeded by the financial crash of the early 1840s, when land speculation triggered a bubble and banks which had issued easy credit now called in their loans. Governor Gawler’s public spending caused the bankruptcy of the Commissioners’ land fund.  He had drawn money for infrastructure from the diminishing land fund but there was not enough to pay local merchants for provisions purchased by the government.  As a result, there were numerous insolvencies and land was sold ‘at ruinous prices’.  The Hacks were not spared.

It was Winston Churchill who stated:  ‘Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm’.   John Barton Hack’s life fits this quotation.  The financial crash of the 1840s did not dampen his spirit.  He continued to borrow from family, Quaker brethren and capitalists causing family feuds and disputes amongst friends. Despite these, his endearing personality meant that bad feeling was seldom long lasting.  Stephen Hack, who at times felt maligned by his brother’s reckless actions, spent much of his life in Barton’s company and in that of his family and associates.  The brothers were very different personalities and also very dissimilar in ‘tastes and pursuits’.  While Barton was the indomitable optimist, Stephen was a ‘curious mixture’ of bushman and romantic.  Barton was the family man, fourteen children in all, while Stephen had a small family and was well-known as an explorer. Mount Hack in the Far North was named after him.

Iola Hack Mathews tells a different story to that of the typical hagiography of pioneers and their efforts.  There are the visions splendid but there are also the warts. In this she admits she has been very fortunate as she has benefited from having ‘nearly 500 original letters, ledgers and documents’ which go back ‘nearly 200 years’.  She has also benefited from the fact that Quakers kept meticulous records, and because many of the Hacks were achievers.  Maria Hack, the mother of Barton and Stephen, was a well-known author of pedagogical books in an era when women’s published writing was minimal.  As a result, we have a very balanced story of pioneering with the trials and triumphs of both men and women, old and young, wealthy and poor, achievers and battlers.  We see that history is not a straight projection from hardships to successes but a series of small upsurges and depressions.  And also that some of the founding premises have not been resolved.  There are the ongoing issues of land for Australia’s original inhabitants and of governance that promises democracy but which is predicated on the actions of capitalists in boardrooms.

Chequered Lives has profited from collaboration between Iola Hack Mathews, historian, author and journalist, and astrophysicist and historian Chris Durrant who maintains a website about South Australian history.  Iola Mathews’ role was to write the short, easily readable version of the Hacks while Chris Durrant wrote the long, scholarly ‘source book ‘. In this collaboration, they have been very successful as the Hack history is available to the general reader with a considerable number of coloured plates of family photos, maps and reproductions of drawings and paintings, a genealogical chart and a reference section of sources accessed for the history.

The last word should go to Barton Hack who read the situation well at times but badly on other occasions.  He often overlooked Quaker codes of behaviour, for example exclusion for bankruptcy, and was oblivious to his own faults.  On the recall of Governor Gawler, a friend and supporter, by the Colonial Office and the arrival of his successor Governor Grey, Barton Hack said of Grey:   ‘I wish I could like him, but he is much too young and common-minded a man for so responsible a post.  He appears to me to square his conduct on what he thinks will advance his interest at home [England] rather than on any fixed principle.  He is very civil to me though, so I ought not say anything to his disadvantage’.

Review by Maggie Tate

Iola Hack Mathews (with Chris Durrant), Chequered Lives: John Barton Hack and Stephen Hack and the early days of South Australia, Wakefield Press, South Australia, 2013. Paper Back 320 pages, $29.95.

A notice in the Murray Valley Standard of 9 April 2014.

Chequered Lives tells Coorong pioneers' story

April 23, 2014, 5:30 p.m.
  • Family story: Author Iola Mathews is pictured at Echunga here her great-great grandfather Barton Hack made the first wine in the colony.
Family story: Author Iola Mathews is pictured at Echunga here her great-great grandfather Barton Hack made the first wine in the colony.

WHEN Iola Mathews began researching for her book Chequered Lives - her family's story - she found the makings of a best-seller.

Mrs Mathews began writing the story after opening a case full of family letters, diaries and memoirs and discovered how much of an influence they had creating South Australian history.

The story begins with a Quaker family, led by Barton Hack and his younger brother Stephen, arriving from England in 1837 and taking up residence in the South Australia before construction on the city of Adelaide began.

In 1857, the family moved to the Coorong to become farmers.

"The Hacks purchased a lease on the Coorong which they called Parnka and established a dairy farm on the peninsula between the lagoons and the ocean," Mrs Mathews said.

"They settled there with 17 family members and employed the local Narrindjeri people as stockmen."

Mrs Mathews said the family then became graziers in the east of the State.

"In 1860 they took up leases in the south east for speculation or sheep farming, mainly around Coonalpyn and Tintinara," she said.

"This land was just opening up and it was very hard in those days.

"They were forced to give up after a few years and Barton returned to Adelaide and Stephen to England."

In the book readers will discover how Barton Hack went on to become a merchant, owner of a whaling station,ships and the first vineyard in the province and was chairman of the first chamber of commerce in Australia.

The Age

This brief notice appeared in the Spectrum supplement of the Age, 15 March 2014.

Age review

David Washington

News feature in InDaily, Adelaide independent news, 7 February 2014, found here.

InDaily feature


Notice in the online website here.

Business SA

Notice in their electronic newsletter here.