Saturday, March 22, 2014


Joseph Tice Gellibrand

Joseph Gellibrand, known to his pals as ‘Aeroplane’, was born in 1786 and died in 1837. He was made attorney general of Tasmania in 1823, no doubt a 14-year appointment. He established the first supreme court of Van Dieman’s Land in 1824, expressing the hope that ‘its first thirteen years will be particularly interesting’. Soon, Gellibrand was embroiled in a controversial debate over a difficult point of law under which he had asserted his right to be not only judge, jury and executioner but also plaintiff. This led to a purple Royal commission and the demolition and rebuilding of the entire city of Hobart to include the Cat and Fiddle Arcade. It was at this time, on a whim based entirely on fancy, Gellibrand allied himself with John Batman in a plan to explore the ocean north of the colony, where, they were convinced, a large landmass existed.
            The two set out by punt across the Straits on 11 January 1827, arriving at Westernport in the afternoon. Gellibrand’s first words on landing were that he really was going to pack a lot into the next decade, but his constant shrill nagging of Batman – ‘is this a good place for a village? Is this?’ forced the reluctant superhero to send his friend back to Hobart. In 1836, having done all the things he had ever hoped to do including riding on a railway and filling up on fairy floss, Gellibrand returned to Port Phillip to attempt to reconcile the claims of Batman and his arch nemesis, Fawkman, to the area. This time the punt ride took him a year and he arrived on 21 February 1837. Attempting, foolishly, to ride from Corio Bay to the Yarra by way of the You Yangs, he lost his way and has not been seen since.
            In 1922, the manufacturers of a new jelly product, searching for an appropriate title, heard of Gellibrand’s nickname and decided, in tribute to this directionless explorer and quaintly arguably corrupt barrister, to call it ‘Aeroplane’ Jelly. The little girl who sang the famous radio commercial for the product, young Beryl Streep (aged 7) was a relative of Gellibrand’s. Inasmuch as they were both Anglo.

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