Friday, June 25, 2010


John Tennant had been a convict assigned to 'Canberry', a property in the present day inner north of Canberra. Tennant was born in Belfast, Ireland. He was 29 years old when sentenced to transportation to Australia for life in 1823. In 1824 he was assigned to Joshua John Moore (bio here)  and sent with two other men, James Clarke and John McLaughlin, to establish Moore's property Canberry (present day Canberra), the first European habitation on the Limestone Plains. In 1828 Tennant and another man, John Ricks, absconded and took to the bush. He then hid out on Mount Tennent (note different spelling)... Historian Allen Mawer has written about John Tennant, Canberra's bushranger and takes us on a tour of Tennant's old haunts.

Some final notes...

Legend has it that two holey dollars that were stolen from James Ainsley, overseer of  Duntroon Station, were never recovered and are still 'waiting to be found' somewhere on Mount Tennent. The coins at the time were worth 10 British shillings. Today, in good condition, holey dollars are sold for six figure sums. Here is some information if you have a metal detector, some hiking boots and some spare time.

The new penal settlement of New South Wales in 1788 ran into a lack of coinage. Governor Lachlan Macquarie (1762-1824)(bio here) solved the problem by using £10,000 in Spanish dollars sent by the British government to produce coins. 40,000 Spanish dollar coins had the centers punched out of them thus providing 80,000 coins of two denominations. This also had the added bonus of retaining them in the colony, the coins being useless abroad.

The central plug (known as a dump) was valued at 15 pence and were restruck with a crown on the face and the denomination on the reverse. The outer 'doughnut' coin was stamped around the coin with "New South Wales 1813" on the face and "Five Shillings" on the reverse. The holey dollar became the first official currency produced specifically for circulation in Australia. From 1822 these coins were slowly taken out of circulation and replaced with British currency.  Fewer than 300 holey dollars remain in collections today.

I have a post on Canberra's Bushranger (here)

Mount Tennent map below.

View Larger Map


  1. Still stuff out there to find. It was not so many years ago that some young chap found a cap and ball revolver on a ledge in a cave at a popular public place near Black Mountain, Guyra NSW. Why had it not been found before? No one bothered to look I guess.

  2. I agree Le Loup, a convict issue axe head was uncovered at the cotter reservoir 100 years after it had been misplaced/lost. There must be heaps of things after 200 years of habitation, waiting patiently to be discovered.


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