This shoulder yoke can be found on display in the St Helen’s History Room. The label records the yoke to have belonged to a man known as Sharkey who used it to carry his goods as he worked as a hawker selling fruit around the tin mining area of north-eastern Tasmania called the Blue Tier.
From the 1880s through to the 1930s, with a peak of around 1,000, Chinese tin miners, mainly from Taishan and Xinhui counties of southern China, were based in a series of towns in north-eastern Tasmania. Today most of these towns are deserted or have only a few houses, while the remains of the Chinese communities consist of some archaeological remains, a scattering of gravestones and rare objects such as Sharkey’s yoke.
Tin mining, like gold mining could be done with relatively simple tools and on an individual or small group scale. This suited many people from China and tin mining by Chinese miners was common in northern NSW and southern Queensland as well as in Tasmania. Like all such communities they did not consist of miners only and men such as Sharkey helped to supply various goods and services as did better known merchants such as Maa Mon Chinn.