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I was conceived, in a rather hurried fashion, in the back seat of a car.

No, I don’t know the make of the car. A large car, I hope.

It was parked on a hill opposite what is now a Ralph Voss Supermarket in an inner Launceston suburb. He was from the Mainland: a singer, piano man in a Glenn Miller type big Band, in town for a month. She was the starry-eyed small-town girl in the front row. Nowadays I think we’d call her a groupie.

Now I can’t point the finger of scorn at that. Some of my dimly remembered sexual liaisons have been of a ‘creative’ nature in terms of location. And I may, perhaps, have encountered the kindness of strangers on my way….

I was already in trouble.

Certainly the unmarried 19 year old carrying the embryo Nidge in her womb was. It was 1948 and she was up the duff. Not a good place to be.

When, in due course, my presence became obvious and confession, recrimination and shame followed in relentless succession, she was packed off on the bus, alone, and five months pregnant, down South – to Hobart. Anywhere. Away.

Patsy, ‘cos she has a name, was sent to the ‘Good Shepherd Home of Mercy’ in Lenah Valley where, in the company of other disgraced or mentally unfirm young ladies, she waited out the term of her confinement in exile, tended to by nuns.

I was born in a chemical blur, a technique used in these days to ease the stress for all concerned. These poor, comatose young ladies barely knew they had given birth.

After a brief time I was removed from my mother and sent to The Clarendon Children’s Home, in Kingston. Patsy was discharged from the bad girl’s home and put back on the bus to Launceston as if nothing had ever happened. Her disgrace was never mentioned again.

My father, to this day, remains blissfully unaware of my existence.

All this, and I was barely three weeks old.

My first six months of life were spent in an orphanage until, in March 1950 Joan and Rex arrived in my life. I was adopted, a plump red-headed bastard bundle, and delivered to my new home, 417A Elizabeth St, North Hobart.

Photographs taken on the day show me attempting to launch myself into space with a howl of terror, pushing myself away from foreign arms, unfamiliar faces and these two beaming strangers. But, I learnt to succumb to their kindness and, as consciousness emerged, take it as my due.

So, I was a Triffitt. Up until then I had been called Baby Kevin and had a number.


I suppose Nigel was an improvement.



So it’s a little bit odd that, out of all the kazillion Triffitts in the Southern Hemisphere the biographer turns out to be a Triffitt who isn’t. Maybe I got lucky – they’re a difficult family to like.



Nigel Triffitt is acknowledged as a leader in the field of visual theatre in Australia and internationally with shows that have successfully toured to over 30 countries, displaying a unique renegade talent. As a designer, devisor and director of his own shows, Nigel has an impressive track record over a career spanning 30 years. Arguably Nigel’s most successful project is Tap Dogs, which he co-created, designed and directed. Tap Dogs has become one of Australia’s greatest exports, having toured to over 250 cities worldwide. It’s still running, sixteen years later. Nigel’s talent has led him on to other art territories, from grand opera to rock ’n’ roll, from film to huge outdoor spectacles, circus, puppetry and dance, all of which have combined to create his unique fusion of artforms. His productions have been seen at all the major arts festivals in the world. Commercial work included the phenomenally successful revival of Hair and The New Rocky Horror Show, which toured Australia for eight years, and Gumboots, made in South Africa.. Nigel created, directed and designed the finale of the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, screened to an international television audience of an estimated 3.5 billion viewers. Click the pic to see.

Knowing that it was all downhill after that, he retired.

Now he travels.



  1. Tash 'N' Kane Triffitt / Aug 12 2011 12:03 am

    Fantastic effort mate, are you thinking of publishing this information as a book, I would love a copy, my Grandfather is going to love this,
    Kane Triffitt

    • thedogster / Aug 12 2011 12:23 am

      Heya Kane, thanks for the kind words. I see you’re in New Norfolk. Make sure you check out Part Two and Three – that’s all the Back River stuff, just up the road from you. The Great Raid is all New Norfolk too. I might bung it all together in a book. Trouble is, it never gets finished. There’s always a new bit of juicy data popping up. That’s why the web is good. I can add and change. But, a book is so easy nowadays. Play in here for now. I’ll think about it. Give my regards to your grandfather.

  2. Peter Farrell / Feb 19 2012 1:18 am

    Hello Nigel. You’re hard to find. Been looking for you for a while.

    • thedogster / Mar 12 2012 5:13 am

      That’s a blast from the past! Good to hear from you after so long.

      You can reach me at

      I’m on the road at present, lost in Bangkok right now. Home soon.

  3. Tony Beach / Mar 12 2012 4:10 am

    Hi Nigel,

    I am a direct descendant from John and Phoebe (Triffitt) Jillett. I found the Sad Phoebe story of great interest in that it provides a depth of understanding to the pure statistics of the death of the children and the challenge that the family had to live thru in those very difficult times.

    I am curious to how the detail was developed around that story, who is the author and to what degree it is fiction.

    You have developed a truly wonderful website. Congratulations on that and your career.

    Kind regards,

    Tony Beach

    • thedogster / Mar 12 2012 5:09 am

      Hi Tony, thanks for those kind words:

      Well, I’m the author. lol. It’s all my fault.

      As for the degree of ‘creativity’ in the story – well, I guess there’s a bit. I really have no idea whether dear Phoebe was ‘sensational in the sack’ or anything about her appearance or nature. So, yup, there’s creative licence there, for sure. But I wanted to flesh her out and give some meaning to the dreadful ordeal they both went through. So often we just read a list of births but forget the real drama behind every one of them. My eye was taken immediately by the sudden rush of deaths in the family, hence the research and subsequent article.

      I guess I just wanted to remember those faceless women who did all the hard work.

      Phoebe is somewhere in my family line, too. That’s why I wrote about her.

      Names, dates, places, family and details of the disease that brought so many babies down are, of course, factual. There is probably more on the net by now. Why don’t you run a search on and see what you come up with. Send it to me if you find anything juicy.

      I wrote it about six years ago. I had to go read it again – I’ll fix the layout errors and a bit of bad prose here and there later today – the website keeps growing like topsy – I’m really only up to about 1824 in real detail – but I do thank you for your interest and praise.

  4. Julie Gough / Apr 5 2012 1:53 pm

    hi Nigel

    Just found your site – wow
    very inspirationally interesting, including your arrival into Triffittness
    I too am addicted to colonial VDL history [have blogs incl. Manuscript 3251 on wordpress]
    and have noticed that the Triffitts/Triffetts do figure large
    I have many ancestors from all over and proudly original Tasmanians too, also one – Joseph Cox was born on Norfolk Island, they were the 1813 Cox family on Lady Nelson immigration to Norfolk Plains.
    All the best

    • thedogster / Apr 5 2012 2:28 pm

      Aww, how nice. Thanks Julie. Another addict in the house. The trouble with colonial history is that it never stops! Have fun in the site – I’ve been rewriting and adding lots more stuff lately in an effort to finish it off – but, of course, there never IS an end to it… – thanks again for your kind words – explore away.

  5. Gayle Burns / Apr 14 2012 4:17 am

    Hi Nigel,
    Fascinating reading. I am a direct descendant of Ada Elizabeth Triffitt & James Burn. Your information has really filled in some gaps! I am still trying to find out about James Burn(s) family though. It seems his father was a James Burn(s) too.
    My father had the picture of Johanna (Richardson) and he called her ‘little granny’. Quite a character by all accounts.


    • thedogster / Apr 14 2012 4:33 am

      Heya Gayle, yup, that’s a great pic, isn’t it? I only stumbled on it recently. I’ll use your ‘little granny’ line, if I may. It’s perfect. The stories that gal could tell. I’m glad you’re enjoying. Burns will be slightly difficult to track because it’s a fairly common name and Tasmania is swirling with stories around this time. All you really need to know is: free settler or convict? If the latter, date of crime and place. After that it’s easy. It’s fun trawling in here, too: – and thanks for your kind comments.

  6. Irene Dillon / May 6 2012 11:59 am

    Hi Nigel,

    I’ve been struggling with two small Triffitt puzzles, I wonder if you can help?

    The first: my forebear Elizabeth Rawlinson with three illegitimate children in tow married Edward Albert Triffitt (28th May 1863 – 1942). I suspect her third child may actually have been Edward’s. He gave his name to all three and they had 7 more.

    There was a newspaper announcement for the wedding as follows in the Mercury:

    TRIFFETT-RAWLINSON.-On April 22,1887,

    by the Rev. Joseph Black, Hobart, Albert Edward, third eldest son of John Triffett, to Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Peter Rawlinson, both of the Ouse,

    I am wondering who is said John Triffitt the father? I can’t find a mention anywhere connecting the obvious John and my Albert (also known as Edward).

    The second: In a newspaper report (Mercury again) into the inquest of death of Caleb Bartlett (20th Feb 1878) Owen Daley gives evidence as the event occurs near his house. Also giving evidence is Johanna Triffitt, apparently the daughter of Owen Daley. I am wondering just who she is? A daughter to Susan before they married or a daughter of his who married a Triffitt? Any clues?


    • thedogster / May 6 2012 12:38 pm

      Hi Irene: I’m sleuthing this right now.
      One thing to remember: just ‘cos its written in the papers, doesn’t make it true. lol.

      Go to TRIBES:

      Scroll down a way or use the search function. There you’ll find your Edward Albert Augustus Triffitt b. 28 May 1863 in Bothwell.

      He was the third son born to EDWARD TRIFFITT & MARY TAYLOR. Edward the father was the third son born to THOMAS TRIFFITT & MARY SCATTERGOOD.

      As you know, Thomas was the second son of JAMES TRIFFITT & MARY HIGGINS.

      So, your Mercury clipping is incorrect. Trust me, that’s not unusual where family listing is concerned. Information was delivered verbally, often from confused sources, via the magic telegraph.. I wouldn’t fuss too much about it unless you come up with some extra corroborating evidence – in which case, we’re ALL wrong. lol.

      There is no John in your line.. Relax.

      I’ll get back to your second question later.

      Later: O.K., I’m reading your juicy inquest. Why do you think that Johanna Triffitt was the daughter of Owen Daley? Ahh, I see the words ‘my daughter Johanna…’ Hmmm. Mystery.

      Here’s the inquest for anybody else reading:|||sortby=dateAsc|||l-category=Article|||l-decade=187|||l-year=1878

      The ONLY Johanna I have available is this one: Johannah Elizabeth Triffitt b. 26 Jun 1851, daughter of FERTILE WILLIAM TRIFFITT & ANN TRIFFITT. I’m afraid you’re in the far edges of my research. I had to give up after the 150-ish grandchildren – it just became too complicated after that. The clues, if any, will lie in the Daley family records. If Johanna was his daughter, she’d be called Johanna Daly. She’s not married – you can see in the evidence she’s courting ‘a young man she’s keeping company with…’ so where the name Triffitt comes from eludes me. Right now, I’d be leaning on the above Johannah Elizabeth Triffitt b. 26 Jun 1851 – rather than some elusive Daley child – but why ‘my daughter’?
      Well, I dunno.

  7. historybylarzus / May 16 2012 5:27 am

    Hi Nigel,

    Thank you for looking that up. You may be completely correct, but I think there are a few possible other options.

    If Susan was born in 1822 she was 37 when she married. That’s a long time for a lady to wait, especially in the environs in which Susan was raised. I think it’s possible – just possible – that she cohabited with someone before the marriage. In that case a daughter would have her surname … as with Susannah Triffitt the daughter of James Hay. We’d need baptism records to find out, if they exist. If this happened Owen might have taken the girl on as his own, hence ‘my daughter Johannah’ or she really was his child. This is all speculation, of course. But there seems to be something lacking in Susan’s early life. I also note, her marriage record gives her age in 1859 as 30, same as Owen.

    The other uncertainty I’m finding is with her children. Did she really have her youngest child at age 54? Even for a Triffitt that’s hard to believe. If she was born in 1829 it makes her 47, not impossible but not common. I shall continue digging.

    On another note, have you seen the Mercury of 21 Jul 1873 where Johanna Triffett is on trial for perjury? It goes from the end of page 2 across to page 3 and gives a nice glimpse of daily life in their neck of the woods. A bit tough on country people to suddenly be thrust into that very formal environment. The young ones seems to have been a bit shy in court.


    • thedogster / May 17 2012 3:50 am

      Hi Irene – you slipped into my spam folder. I’ve just recovered you.
      I think I’ll defer to you on all this.
      Remember, we’re at the edge of my research here. I’ve managed to get it up to 1853 – but in a very narrow way, concentrating purely on my main family and the three tribes. The exponential growth in the family is huge after that. Once we get past the second generation it all just gets too hard for me. I’m still uncovering new grandchildren!
      I’m working on the final links leading down to my arrival on the scene so I’m kinda preoccupied in the 1940’s at the moment.
      I’ll have another look – but I think you know more about this than me… and your suppositions are perfectly reasonable.
      I see you’re trawling thru trove too. I’m spending hours in there at present. Isn’t it just the most fantastic resource?

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