President Peter Laidlaw’s speech for the AGM 2023-24

It has been said before that President Peters annual address at the Annual General Meeting is worth the price of admission. This was true this year as always as Peter drew whimsically from the worlds of fantasy, history and LBT accomplishments and from there dreamed a magical look to the future:

LBT AGM – President’s Speech 16 Sept 2023

Becoming lucid is surely one of the most powerful ways to begin to take ownership of our own stories.  Lets say that our reality is strung together by our own thoughts and this creates materiality, something tangible, and the minute we all realise that reality is something we have created, we realise then that reality is something we can unravel.

And the moment you start to disentangle yourself from reality……

Once there was a poor servant girl who always worked hard and was diligent and neat in all she did. Every day she would sweep out the house and pile the rubbish outside the back door. One morning, just as she was about to start work, she saw a letter in among the rubbish. Since she couldn’t read, she stood her broom in the corner and took the letter to her mistress. It turned out to be an invitation from the elves, inviting the girl to stand as godmother at the forthcoming baptism of an elf-child.

‘I don’t know what to do, ma’am!’ she said.

‘No, it’s difficult, Gretchen,’ said her mistress. ‘But I’ve heard that it’s not right to turn down an invitation from the elves. I think you should accept.’

‘Well, if you say so, ma’am,’ said Gretchen.

The mistress helped her write a letter accepting the invitation. She left it where she’d found the other one, and when her back was turned, it vanished; and shortly afterwards three elves turned up and led her to a hollow mountain. She had to bend her head a little to go in, but once she was inside she was amazed at the beauty of everything she saw, which was delicate and precious beyond description.

The new mother was lying on a bed of the blackest ebony inset with pearly shells. The counterpane was embroidered with gold thread, the cradle was of ivory, and the little bathtub of solid gold. The baby was no bigger than her little fingernail.

The girl stood in as godmother, and then she asked to go back home, because she was needed to work the next day; but the elves pleaded with her to stay with them, just for three days. They were so persuasive and so friendly that she gave in, and had a fine time; they did everything they could to make her happy.

When three days had gone by she told them that she really must return home. They filled her pockets with gold and led her outside. She set off homewards, and reached the house late in the morning, finding her broom still in the corner where she’d left it. She picked it up and started sweeping as usual, but was astonished when some strangers came out of the house and asked her what she was doing. It turned out that her old employer had died, and she hadn’t spent three days in the mountain, as she’d thought, but seven years.*

Imagine instead the small Mediterranean fishing village of Pomegranate.  It lay surrounded by the ancient ruins of Side and had remained little changed for thousands of years.  There were few places so beautiful on the south coast of Turkey and when the tourists first arrived in the sixties, the young French girls wearing bikinis were stoned on the beach – not by their boyfriends but by the indignant local Muslim villagers. 

In a single generation village life unraveled and the farmers’ tools of trade became museum pieces.  The wooden ploughs and threshing sleds, huge horse-drawn slabs of walnut from whose base diagonal tines of flint protruded to separate the wheat from the chaff.  The young Turks now ran hotels, boarding houses and restaurants and lusted after sunglasses and Swedish backpackers.

We also live in a beautiful part of the world, still relatively unchanged. 

My speech preparation is always fueled by Richard sending me the highlights of the past year’s events.  What are your best memories of this last year at the LBT?

What about Imagine’s 10th birthday party – how sweet it is that she is so celebrated and constantly repaired too.  One of my favorite memories is our very own wooden boat day after the Wooden Boat Festival.  The sun was out, there was feasting and music on the lawns.  I was taking trippers out for sails in Monty in the sun and wind.  As Richard wisely said, an important survival skill around the LBT is knowing when to duck and not just from booms but from manning stalls and cooking sausages

A big thanks to LBT newbie Louise for manning the stalls and everything else too.  A special thanks to everyone involved in that lovely day.

Another of my most favorite memories of the year would have to be the Raid leading up to the Boat Festival.  We are so lucky still to have Martin and Deb running Tawe Nunnagah.  Thanks Martin and Deb.  It is such a fabulous event.  As Richard said again, a time to greet old friends and meet new ones.

Running Tawe Nunnagah is such a mammoth logistical operation, involving vast hordes, preparing food, readying boats, fixing trailers, safety boats, skippers, road crews etc etc.  Huge thanks to all involved and especially Kate and her cooking crew for their stalwart efforts.

And so the year progressed.  The Boat Festival was exhausting and fabulous as always and one of the highlights is seeing people out rowing in our fleet of dinghies in Con Dock.  It is a great thing to get people out on the water.

Solar panels went on the roof of the shed.  Thanks Julie Collins and Bec Enders who helped fund the project.

Two donated scout boats arrived with their huge trailer.

Intrepid sails to Franklin.

A grant from the Tasmanian Men Shed’s Association provided the grant for a new chemical cupboard.  Many thanks

One weekend in October 2022, the skiffs were rowed to Cygnet and back.  This must have been a highlight for those involved.  A great idea.  I wonder if it will become an annual event.

In April too, the skiffs punched above their weight as they always do in the Australia 5 event, organised to no-one needs to travel.

Potential pontoon plans are in the air.

There has been continual maintenance on the shed and boats and the place is looking great and thriving. Big thanks to all the volunteers who run the shed and maintain the boats.  I would especially like to thank Mark who seems to be there 7 days a week, mowing , weeding and gardening.

Monday night dinners continue in one form or another.  Most nights are a genuine delight with delicious food and good company.  Big Thanks to all the cooks.

Yukon filled our thoughts with news of her voyage this year, transporting us around the world in our imaginations.  Well done David and Ea and the good ship Yukon.  The place is much quieter without you.

I spent part of this winter driving up and down the East Coast of Australia, visiting small communities along the way.  Beautiful little harbours with boats, a spectacular bar entrance, usually a nice lookout with a view overall and a main street full of locals.  I got a taste for having breakfast in little cafes and listening to the conversations around me.  It got me wondering how communities survive the threats of change to them in this modern world.

Take the enchanted isles of St Kilda for example, 50 miles off the West Coast of Scotland.  For more than 2000 years, the beautiful fair-haired people of St Kilda remained remote from the world.  They spoke their own form of Gaelic with a distinctive lisp and had prehensile toes like hobbits for climbing the huge cliffs and sea stacks, where they gathered seabirds and their eggs.  The society was viable and even utopian, even though it was feudal and taxed by the McLeods of Harris.  The story goes that the McLeods won the islands in a boat race against the MacDonalds.  Fifty miles of open sea, identical boats, and an equal number of rowers.

The race was close, but the MacDonalds had the lead and seemed assured of victory.  In despair, young Colin McLeod rushed forward to the bows, hacked his left hand off with one blow from his sword and hurled it over the wining boat, showering them with blood and as it thudded on the shore thus claiming the islands for the McLeods.  And they remained under McLeod ownership until the 1930’s when the last islanders were evacuated.

The St Kildans had no use for silver and gold.  The pins to hold their cloaks were made from the beaks of birds.  In 1750, a visitor to the island described the local marriage ceremony as a joyous affair with much singing, dancing, and feasting.  The young bridegroom had to perform acrobatics on the top of the cliffs to prove his worth and the women wove the family’s most prized possession – a long rope made from their own hair which the men used to scale the cliffs.

By the 1870’s, under the effects of missionaries, the people were cowed under their grim rule.  Happiness was actively discouraged, children were forbidden to play games, and all the songs had been lost.

After the missionaries, came the tourists.   In 1870 steamers ran regularly during the summer months.   The steamer season become the most exciting and important part of the islanders ‘year.  They became dependent on the tourists who brought money, disease, and despair.  Their old snug warm beehive housing had long been replaced by cold draughty damp modern houses.  St Kildan culture gradually disintegrated and in the 1930’s the few remaining islanders asked to be evacuated.

The destruction of the St Kildan culture is a microcosm of the process which is still taking place all over the world. 

So where does this bring us?  What can we learn from the stories of St Kilda, the Brothers Grimm and the village of Pomegranate.  Franklin is changing and we are part of the changes.  The future stories of Franklin are being dreamed right now and there is room for everyone      Franklin has always had its dreamers, like any community.  In north Franklin, buried in a garden there exists a replica in concrete of Stonehenge – scaled down of course, but loving built by Mike Snow who also dowsed and was searching for the lost viking longboat that he thought might be in a tunnel under Kent Street.  Who Knows?

Let’s all hope our future is a bright one. the LBT and Franklin is a great place to change your reality and dream your own dreams.

We can all help in our own little way to dream this new future, to write the stories that will become our history.

Big thanks to the committee, the members, the volunteers past present and future.

Peter Laidlaw, LBT President , 2023-24

* Pullman, Philip. Grimm Tales: For Young and Old (Penguin Classics) (p. 173). Penguin Books Ltd.