Convict blood and genius in his veins

By Karen Nankervis (Admin) | 150th Celebration

Jan 04

Happy 150th Birthday to a Tasmanian with convict blood and genius in his veins

Few Australians could say they have deeply influenced everyone from actors of the ilk of Dame Judi Dench and Hugh Jackman, and Aussie cricket royalty, to world famous musicians and philosopher and writer Aldous Huxley. One man set to be honoured in early January in a small part of north west Tasmania did just that in an extraordinary career that placed him in the pantheon of our nation’s greatest individuals.

On January 20 1869, John and Betsy Alexander became the proud parents of their first child, Frederick Matthias Alexander. John was a blacksmith, Betsy the daughter of convicts. His grandparents – all four of them – were also convicts, as were his two great uncles. His birthplace, long gone now, was an early settle homestead on Table Cape in Tasmania, a remote land in a distant corner of the then-British Empire.

It was an inauspicious start for someone who would develop a pain relief technique used by people from all walks of life, and see them recognised as one of 200 People Who Made Australia Great, in the book of that title published for the Australian Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988.

Move forward 150 years from 1869 and teachers of the Technique from around the world, together with Alexander family members, will gather in Wynyard over the weekend of January 19-20, to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the birth of FM, as he is popularly known.

“To celebrate the 150th birthday of Frederick Matthias Alexander near where he was born is a fitting tribute, both to the man and to this beautiful part of Tasmania which had such an impact on his life,” Hobart-based Alexander Technique teacher Penny McDonald said. “His early years here sowed the seed for what would become the Alexander Technique (AT) now being taught around the world by more than 4000 teachers.”

Many great actors and top musicians have studied the AT, including Sting, Paul McCartney, Mr Jackman, Dame Judi Dench, Paul Newman, Barry Humphries, and Madonna, amongst others.

“Australian Test cricket great Greg Chappell has learnt it, Victoria Beckham is a recent student, and the enlightened intellectual Aldous Huxley wrote a book about it,” Ms McDonald said.

The birthday weekend celebrations, supported by the Waratah/Wynyard Council, will be a chance for teachers to gather and work with people in the local community who are curious and intrigued about the AT.

“Those interested in the Alexander family history will also have an opportunity to see the work done by local historians and researchers on developing the family tree of the Alexanders in Tasmania,” Ms McDonald said.

What:                 150th Birthday celebration of Frederick Matthias Alexander

Where:               Alexandria, Table Cape Road, Wynyard

When:                 January 19-20, 2019


Australian Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (AUSTAT)

Contact for further information:

150th Coordinator: Penny McDonald – 0428 377 060

AUSTAT Chair: Jeremy Woolhouse – 0490 126 293

About the Author

Hi I'm Karen, AUSTAT Administrator.