Thomas Bately Rolin was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, on 4 September 1827 to Daniel Rolin (a shoemaker) and Ann Bately. He was the youngest son of a family of at least six children. Leaving England in January 1854, he arrived in Melbourne on board the Croesus on 9 April 1854. He remained in Victoria for eight months and then, in December 1854, he came to Sydney aboard the Governor General.
In Sydney in May 1857, he married Louisa Jones (1835-1872) the London-born third daughter of Thomas Jones (1796-1879) and Elizabeth nee Smith (1798-1861). Thomas, who was the brother of David Jones of David Jones & Co, was a ‘broker’ or ‘commission agent’ and appears to have arrived in the colony of NSW in 1836. Very little is known about Louisa’s parents or herself except that she had six children with Thomas Rolin: Minnie (1858-1899), Tom (1863-1927), Mildred (1865-1888), unnamed male child (1867), Gertrude (1868-1918) and Frederick Lynne (1870-1950). Thomas and Louisa settled in “Forest Lodge” on the corner of Pitt and Redfern Streets, Redfern, living there at least until 1871 when they moved to Burwood. It was here that Louisa died in 1872 leaving Thomas, who never remarried, with children aged 14, 9, 7, 4, and 2. In 1880, Thomas took up residence in Redmyre Road, Strathfield, where he remained until his death on 26 June 1899.
Thomas came to Australia in because of a business partnership he had with his older brother William Salmon Rolin (b 1821). William was a joiner by trade but had an entrepreneurial flair and became a property developer. As such, in 1848 he employed some 35 men on his building of houses and in renovating the Framingham Almshouses. It would appear that he and Thomas formed a partnership as ‘Ship Builders and Shipwrights’ in King’s Lynn. By October 1854, however, the partnership was bankrupt with debts said to be in excess of £20,000 ($1.6 M) with no assets available to offset this sum. William absconded to the United States of America where he took out citizenship, whereas of Thomas, it was said:
About nine months since Mr. T. B. Rolin left England for the purpose of looking after the affairs of the partnership. It was no doubt necessary for him to do so, as the bankrupts were owners of vessels several of which were at Australia … Now the probability was, that Mr. T. B. Rolin knew nothing of the bankruptcy … it was probable that he did not know the firm was insolvent at the time he left England.
In view of this, William Rolin was declared outlawed, but T B Rolin had his examination adjourned ‘sine die’ to allow him the opportunity to communicate with his assignees. T B Rolin, however, never returned to England and the matter was never resumed. Whether Thomas’ absence in the colony was fortuitous or by design is unknown. That it was fortuitous is supported by it being publically stated that Thomas had not planned to remain in the colony of NSW being ‘temporarily in the colony’. Probably, when he learned of the bankruptcy of Rolin and Rolin shipbuilders, it was a prudent if not an altogether ethical course of action. No doubt he said nothing, for someone who was a known bankrupt and in debt to creditors for such a large sum would find it difficult to build a future. This situation also explains why, later in life, when successful and prosperous, he did not return to England for a visit as so many other colonists had done. Whereas England now offered Thomas only difficulties, Australia was to prove to be an opportunity for advancement and for a second chance to build a successful, respectable and prosperous life. Given that his chosen profession of advancement was the law, being a bankrupt would not be an asset in assisting him to become a qualified solicitor.(more…)
Founder of the Sunday Morning Breakfast for the Poor
Andrew Bell Armstrong was born in Ireland around 1811 and died in Sydney on 17 June 1872, at 61 years of age. Andrew married Barbara Iredale on 20 July 1844 in Sydney and they were to have three children: Mary (b 1846), Thomas (b 1849) and John (b 1851). Barbara was to prove to be a willing partner in Andrew’s philanthropic efforts. Barbara Iredale was 28 years old on her arrival in the colony in 1842. She came with her mother and father, and she had with her a daughter, Sarah, from a previous relationship who was born in 1841. Sarah would later marry WS Buzacott who would be Andrew’s business partner.
Andrew came from a family with a military tradition, and he said he descended from ‘a long line of British soldiers’. All his uncles were in the army and his father was a volunteer and so he uncritically followed the family tradition when he joined His Majesty’s (HM) 80th Regiment of Foot (also known as the Staffordshire Volunteers). Later in life he was to rethink his attitude to soldiering. HM 80th Regiment of Foot had a proud history with extensive overseas engagements but, prior to Armstrong joining the Regiment, it had been stationed from 1831 in various parts of England and Ireland. This is most likely when Andrew, being Irish, joined the Regiment. A detachment of the Regiment sailed from England on 23 May 1836 for Sydney with the task of accompanying a group of convicts. The remainder of the Regiment with its colours, and presumably Armstrong who was a ‘colour serjeant’, did not leave until 6 March 1837 and arrived in Sydney on 11 July of that year. The Regiment’s duties meant that,
During the stay of the 80th in New South Wales, it has been divided into a great number of very small detachments, distributed over nearly the whole colony, chiefly guards over prisoners at stockades – a duty harassing to the soldier and prejudicial to discipline.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Sydney had two Magdalen Asylums to provide prostitutes with shelter and a chance for them to redirect their lives. Both were formed in 1848, and both were housed in Pitt Street, Sydney, next door to one another in the former Carters’ Barracks. One was the Catholic ‘House of the Good Shepherd’ (HGS) and the other, the effectively Protestant ‘Sydney Female Refuge’ (SFR).
In the formation of each of these Asylums were figures, a woman in the case of the HGS and a man in the case of the SFR, who were critically important but who received little recognition and whose identity is uncertain. This paper is an attempt to redress this obscurity and to suggest the identity of these important but neglected figures of the Sydney Magdalen Asylum history.
Mary Blake and the House of the Good Shepherd
Catholic tradition has it that
… on a Sydney street in 1848 Father Farrelly of St Benedict’s Mission, met a woman who was tired of a life as a prostitute and begged him to find her a place where she could rest and rescue her soul. Farrelly placed her in the care of Mrs Blake, a Catholic laywoman, and, when six more women asked for assistance, Polding instructed him to rent a house in Campbell Street.
The precise identity of Mrs Blake is never revealed except to say that she was a Catholic and that she cared for the women in premises in Campbell Street which either she or Farrelly rented. Mrs Blake was probably Mary Blake (1802-1857), born in the City of Dublin and arriving in NSW around 1842. After the founding of the HGS, she became a collector for it from its first year of operation in 1848 to at least 1853. When Mary died in 1857, her funeral procession moved ‘from her late residence, at the house of the Good Shepherd, Pitt-street.’
Mary was said to be the wife of John Christopher Blake, also known as Christopher Blake (1796-1844), the publican of the Shamrock Inn in Campbell Street. John Blake, the name by which he was most commonly known, had previously been a constable and poundkeeper at Stonequarry (Picton), but in 1840 he was appointed to the Water Police in Sydney. In 1841, he resigned and in July became the Publican of the Shamrock Inn at the corner of Campbell and George Streets, Sydney. Blake had arrived in NSW in 1818 as a convict transported in the Guilford (3), and in 1826 he married Jane Sterne; they had one son Christopher John Blake (1828-1856), but Jane died in 1831. In 1833, Blake made an application with Mary McAnally/McNally, transported on the Forth 2, to marry and permission was given, but it appears the wedding never took place as it seems McAnally/McNally was already married. Who, then, was Mary Blake if not Mary McAnally/McNally? There is no record of John Blake’s marriage to anyone else and so it would appear that his wife, Mary Blake, may have been a common-law wife and her maiden name or name on arrival in the colony is unknown.
On the death of William Henry Simpson in 1922 it was said that ‘Sydney has lost a good, useful citizen’. Who was this good citizen and how had he been useful? Of his wife Ann, it was said that she ‘was well known in charitable and church work in Waverley, and was highly esteemed by all who knew her’. In what way had these good citizens contributed to the nation of which they were a part?
Background and Business Life
William Henry Simpson was born at Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland in 1834 to Ebenezer (1795-1855) and Sarah Simpson (1796-1878) and arrived with his parents in Australia in 1838 aboard the ship Parland. At Newry in Ireland, Ebenezer had been a master tanner and so when he arrived in Australia with his family, settling first at Windsor then at Richmond, he worked for Wright’s tannery in Parramatta. In 1843, he commenced a tannery business at Camden, NSW. While William’s brothers, Ebenezer (Jnr) and Alexander, were to become tanners and join the family business, William was apprenticed as a saddle and harness maker to William S Mitchell of Camden for the period from around 1848 until 1855. Emerging from his indentures in 1855, it is said that William entered into a partnership in a saddle making business with Thomas Davis. Davis died in July 1855 and the partnership in the name of Simpson and Davis first saw the light in June 1856.
It appears that William initially worked with Davis but on his death, which took place soon after William joined the saddlery, he entered a business partnership with Thomas’ widow. The saddlery was situated in various Pitt Street North addresses, but from January 1859 William had no partner. In 1861, he entered a partnership with James David Jones at 325 George Street with the business name of Jones and Simpson. This partnership continued until 1863 when Simpson assumed sole ownership of the business which became W H Simpson, Saddler. In 1887, his son William Walker Simpson joined him as a partner and the business was designated, W H Simpson and Son. Simpson carried on in business until 1910 when he retired and the business was sold. He had conducted a successful and prosperous business as he sold a commodity, equipment for horses which was central to personal and commercial transport, and which was in demand. At his retirement in 1910, however, he remarked:
Yes, I suppose the saddlery business generally it has made great strides, but in some respects it has fallen off. The coming of the motor car has, for instance, meant the making – taking into account the increase of population – of far fewer sets of carriage harness. Where nowadays you see a long row of motor cars lined up opposite the big shops in Pitt street, you used to see as many carriages. Everyone who was at all well off used to have his carriage and pair, and very smart most of them were. On the other hand the growth of the farming industry has made, a wonderful difference in the amount of harness made for farm-work. In fact, it is almost impossible to keep pace with the orders that come in. (more…)
At a meeting of the St Patrick’s Society in Sydney in 1841, the Rev Joseph Platt, a Roman Catholic priest, proposed the formation of
a society among Catholic ladies for the establishment of a Magdalen asylum, or an institution which would afford a refuge to such unfortunate females as are in some measure driven to destruction by circumstances, and to those who, having erred, would gladly forsake their evil courses had they a home and a friend to whom they could fly for protection.
Platt clearly thought of his proposed Magdalen Asylum as a Catholic concern.
At a public meeting in April 1842, the Hobart Magdalen Society was formed by the local community for the purpose of developing an Asylum. In July 1843, it reported some encouraging results, but it had not managed to obtain a property to open as an Asylum. In the following month, a Catholic Magdalen Asylum in Hobart was contemplated by the Rev John Joseph Therry. He confidently publicised his expectation, possibly not to be outdone by the already existing Hobart Magdalen Society, that the Sisters of Mercy would soon arrive and a Catholic Magdalen Asylum for the reception of Female Penitents would be opened and placed under their direction. The Sisters did not arrive, however, and the Asylum of which Therry spoke did not eventuate.
In Sydney in January 1843, the Sydney Catholic Australasian Chronicle reported that a ‘proposition is on foot for the establishment of a Magdalene asylum’, and in March a letter appeared in the SMH pointing out the need for an asylum for prostitutes and asking the Mayor to initiate such an institution. Nothing eventuated, but the matter of a Sydney Magdalen Asylum was again raised in a letter to the SMH in January 1846 and, in the following month, in the Catholic Morning Chronicle. These letters discussed the problem of prostitution and made a suggestion of publicly naming and shaming those landlords who allowed their properties to be used as brothels. They also called for the ‘philanthropic and humane’ to assist in the provision of a Magdalen institution. The consciousness of the need, and perhaps a desire to set up a Magdalen Asylum, seems to have been impressed on some in the Catholic community for at his death in January 1846, George Segerson, a Catholic publican, left a legacy of £50 towards the ‘establishing of a Magdalene Asylum in the City of Sydney’. Later, in April 1846, the Sentinel was direct when it said:
… we exhort and implore the virtuous and happy of the female sex, to look with a more favourable eye on the distresses of these unfortunate creatures who are now pining in degradation and misery; and to unite their influence, which is supreme, over their aristocratic lords, for the benevolent purpose of establishing an Asylum for such as choose to abandon the error of their ways, and to embrace a more reputable line of life. Let a committee of ladies, headed by Lady Gipps, Lady O’Connell, Lady Mitchell, Mrs Thompson, Mrs Riddell, Mrs Plunkett, Mrs Therry, Mrs Stephen, and as many more as they choose to select, be formed for the purpose of carrying out this desirable object – and a Magdalene Asylum for the reformation, protection, and salvation of hundreds of unhappy females raise its head, conspicuously in the City of Sydney …
The death of Dr Alan Carroll in 1911 was announced to the public in Sydney and beyond with the headline “A Great Man Gone, Doctor, Scientist, and Philanthropist”. Was he really any of these things? Under the headline he was described as ‘not only a wise physician but a philanthropist, who lived for the good that he could do’. Regional papers said that he was a ‘great and good man, who had no thought for himself, but spent all for those who needed his help and advice’. His ardent supporters considered him ‘the greatest and noblest man in Australia’ and ‘one of the greatest minds of the day’. For his medical work he was spoken of in messianic terms as he made ‘the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the crooked straight’.  His life was indeed extraordinary, remarkable, colourful and varied as the headline announced, but his history is somewhat less great and his accomplishments less certain than the above would suggest. This article seeks to examine Alan Carroll’s life and some of the claims made by and about him concerning his qualifications, expertise and experience. It will become apparent that, whatever else he may have been, Carroll was an outright liar and a fabricator of his qualifications and experience.
A chronology of his early life, and some recounting of aspects of his background, is required to test the veracity of the various claims made in connection with that life. Critical to this assessment is to know when Alan Carroll was born. He was baptised with the name of Samuel Matthias Curl and he is commonly said to have been born in c1823. Curl was actually born on December 31, 1827, and he was baptised on February 24, 1828. He died in Sydney on April 17, 1911, aged 83 and 4 months. He was the son of Matthias Curl, a wheelwright, and his wife Maria Howlett. Samuel grew up in London in a house in Regent Street having one brother, William Matthias, who followed in his father’s trade. In March 1851, Samuel married Mary White Pryce (December 3, 1820 – May 31, 1905). In June 1851, he joined the Freemasons, St Johns Lodge, Hampstead (United Grand Lodge of England). He maintained his membership until May 13, 1854, when Samuel and Maria embarked for New Zealand (NZ) aboard the Cordelia arriving in the colony at Wellington on September 29, 1854. In 1855, Samuel’s uncle, a brother to his father, died and left him £100 sterling and his farm in Greater Walsingham, England, the income from which meant Samuel was financially secure and perhaps independent of the need to earn a living.
Wilhelmina Logan Stanger-Leaves was the daughter of Thomas and Jane Ranken and was born in Ayr, Scotland, in 1826 and died in Sydney in 1919. She was married in Scotland in 1850 to George Graham Stewart of Bombay, but it seems that her husband died not long after their marriage. By 1859 she, known in the family as Willie, was living with her mother Mrs Thomas Ranken at Kyle, near Marulan, NSW, on the property of her uncle Arthur Ranken. In 1868, she married Alfred Stanger-Leaves (1822-1895) a company manager, and it was also his second marriage. His first wife Maria died in 1865 having borne Arthur seven children who were aged 17, 16, 14, 11, 9, 7 and 6 when he married Wilhelmina and she immediately became ‘mother’. The ceremony for Alfred and Wilhelmina was conducted by the Presbyterian Rev William Ross at Marulan, NSW, on Wilhelmina’s uncle’s property Lockyersleigh. Wilhelmina had no children from either of her marriages.
Alfred had arrived in NSW in 1842 and was involved in various ways in the mining industry, principally in a copper mining and smelting operating on the Island of Kawan, New Zealand, around 1846 until 1851. The ore was mined and smelted on the island and shipped to London via Sydney, and he also exported a minor amount of gold to England. He and his first wife Maria and child returned to England in 1852, returning to Sydney in 1854.
On the amalgamation of the Australasian, Colonial and General Fire and Life Insurance and Annuity Company with the Liverpool, London and Global Insurance Company in August 1854, and the resignation of the resident secretary Robert Styles, Alfred was appointed its secretary. He held this position until 1880 when he resigned and was appointed to the board of directors in which position he continued until his death in 1895. At one time, he was also a director of the Colonial Sugar-refining Company (1870-1880, 1882-1883). In 1892, Alfred built The Rift at Bowral on a property of 20 acres which was described as having been erected by Alfred ‘regardless of cost, and with mature judgement and excellent taste”. Alfred had become a wealthy man and on his death in 1895 his estate was valued at £52,000 ($7.88M current value) with shares in excess of £23,000 ($3.50M current value).
Wilhelmina’s marriage to Alfred granted her a social standing that she would use to good effect in promoting her philanthropic interests. She appears to have had the contacts and social standing required to persuade the wife of various Governors to be present or to chair meetings or open a garden party for causes in which she was involved. The name ‘Stanger-Leathes’ sounded somewhat pretentious and perhaps went down well in ‘fashionable’ circles. It was derived from Alfred’s family background for when his ancestor Thomas Leathes died in England in 1806 his estate, consisting mainly in Lake Thirlmere in Cumberland, was entailed away to his cousin Thomas Stanger who changed his name to include that of his beneficiary and so the family became known as Stanger Leathes. It would appear, however, from two anecdotes in the Bulletin, that Alfred, at least, much preferred to simply use Leathes. Firstly, according to the Bulletin:
The late Edward Deas-Thomson, before his knighthood, was a director at Sydney of the Liverpool and London and Global Insurance Co., [sic] at which Alfred Stanger-Leathes was secretary. At a board meeting one day, Mr Thomson said “Mr Leathes ___ “ “I beg your pardon. Mr Thomson, my name is Stanger-Leathes” “And mine,” quoth the ex-Imperialist, “is Deas-Thomson.’
Henry Phillips (1829-1884) and Margaret Thomson (neé Stobo) (1852-1892) and the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institution
Henry Phillips was the son of William Phillips and Sophia (nee Yates) who were both transported to Australia for fourteen years for “Having & Forged Banknotes.” Both arrived in the colony of NSW in 1820, but William came on the Coromandel whereas Sophia came on the Janus with their seven children aged between 2 and 16 years (including some from William’s previous marriage). Sophia was then assigned to William as a convict, and they recommenced family life in the colony. He was granted a ticket of leave in 1821 and a conditional pardon in 1827 on the recommendation of Chief Justice Forbes, his wife Mrs Forbes, and Judge Stephen. That William received such support from these prominent and respected citizens, especially from Mrs Forbes, is remarkable. Somehow, he must have come into sufficient contact with them that they could form the view that he was worthy of a pardon. A further nine children were born to Sophia and William with Henry being born on 17 July 1829 and dying on 13 March 1884 during a severe outbreak of typhoid fever in Sydney.
Margaret Thomson Stobo (known as ‘Maggie’) was aged 19 when she married Henry, aged 42, on 7 June 1871 at St James, King Street, Sydney. Maggie was born in Greenock, Scotland, in 1852 and was part of a large family; she died in 1892.  She came to NSW in 1854 with her mother Mary in order to join her father, Captain Robert Stobo. Stobo was the Captain of an Illawarra Steam Navigation company (ISN) steamer William IV and he later became the ISN agent and harbour master at Kiama, NSW. Together Maggie and Henry had six children: Halcyon Mary Spears (1872-1873), Henry Stobo (1873-1897), Beatrice Sophia Yates (1876-1933), Robert Stobo (1878-1890), Irene Victoria (1880-1972) and Frederick Stobo (1884-1916), born shortly before his father’s death.
The Phillips family had a long association with St James King Street, maintaining a family pew there from 1833 until at least 1861 which, considering William only received a conditional pardon in 1827, is remarkable. William’s funeral in 1860 was organised by Charles Beaver ‘undertaker, St James’ Church’ and in 1871, Henry was married there by Canon Allwood. Henry did more than occupy pew No 86 at St James, however, for around 1846 and aged 17, he began to teach Sunday School, eventually becoming the Sunday School Superintendent. He took an active interest in Sunday Schools through his active participation in the Church of England Sunday School Institute. At one Institute meeting, he advised his fellow teachers that ‘he found it a good plan of keeping up attention was to have the children ranged around him, and set them to find passages of Scripture’. He also pointed out the ‘several advantages that arose from the teacher visiting at the residences of the children’ who were attending the Sunday School’. In addition, he suggested that ‘every member of the church might be serviceable in the cause of the Sunday-schools even though they were not mentally capacitated for being teachers.’ They might, he said, ‘inform the people in their neighbourhoods that a Sunday-school existed in the parish and urge the people to send their children there.’
John Smith (1821-1885), foundation professor of chemistry and experimental physics at the University of Sydney, was born on 12 December, 1821, at Peterculter, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the son of Roderick Smith, blacksmith, and his wife Margaret, née Shier. From 1839 he studied at the Marischal College, Aberdeen (M.A., 1843; M.D., 1844). Smith arrived in Sydney on 8 September, 1852, on the Australian.
There is a good deal of information available on Smith, but little work has been done on his philanthropic and religious views. An article from Sydney University, which understandably concentrates on his scientific work, briefly mentions his philanthropic interests but omits to make any mention at all of his religious commitments which were also an important feature of his life.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography says of his religious views that ‘In the 1860s Smith served on the committees of several religious organizations’, by which is meant Christian organisations, and that
In January 1882 he had called at Bombay and joined the Indian section of the Theosophical Society, having been influenced by his wife’s spiritualism and the lectures of the theosophist Emma Hardinge Britten in Australia in 1878-79. In Europe in 1882-83 he experimented with the occult.
This article’s religious emphasis falls on the last five years of Smith’s 63-year life and has little to say about his religious commitments during the previous 58 years. This is reflective of Jill Roe’s work which is mainly concerned with Smith’s interest in Theosophy and, while not said overtly, she seems to want to paint Smith as a theological progressive moving from the strictures of a doctrinal Presbyterianism to Theosophy. For Roe, Smith’s encounter with Theosophy was about ‘religious progress’ and the ‘maintenance of true religion’.
The usual paradigm for recruits to spiritualism was one of a theological ‘progress’ which moved from a nineteenth-century disillusionment with the revelation-based approach of Christianity to the intuitive approach to religious knowledge of theosophy. The disillusionment with revelation was rooted in an uncertainty about the Bible, fed by the rise of biblical criticism, the theory of evolution and an increased moral sensitivity repulsed by various biblical events. The problem with this hinted assessment of Smith is that while there is clear evidence of his interest in theosophy there is no evidence to support a disillusionment in his Christian thought, a point which Roe concedes. Roe equates Smith’s interest in theosophy with a desire for ‘religious progress’, but it could equally be a case of intellectual curiosity. For a Professor of Physics, the role and reputed powers of the masters in theosophy would raise serious questions about the nature of matter and spirit. Perhaps it is from a desire for ‘scientific progress’ rather than ‘religious progress’ that Smith’s chief motivation to understand spiritualism arose. That is not to say that Smith had no interest in what Theosophy might have to say about spiritual matters. Rather, it might be better to see Smith as, to use Malcolm Prentis’ expression, a ‘dabbler’ in Theosophy rather than a devotee. This article seeks to examine such a possibility. (more…)
William Briggs (1828 – 1910) and Charlotte Sarah neé Nicholson (1820-1879) Maitland Benevolent Society
William Briggs was born in 1828 in London, England, the third and youngest son of Thomas Briggs, a highly successful dressing case maker and general fine goods retailer of 27 Piccadilly, London, and Elizabeth Nicholson. It appears that the success of Thomas in business permitted his son to be apprenticed as an attorney. William would have served at least five years as an articled clerk in a law office, possibly Seymour Chambers, Duke Street, Adelphi (St James’). In 1853, he married his cousin Charlotte Sarah d’Argeavel neé Nicholson (1820-1879), the daughter of Robert Dring Nicholson, a soldier, and Anne Elizabeth Perry. Charlotte was purported to be the widow of Vicomte Alexandre Eugene Gabriel d’Argeavel. When six months pregnant, Charlotte married the Vicomte in Boulogne, France, in October 1839 and she bore him three children: Alice (1840-1876), Eugenie (1842-1913) and Robert (1844-1913). In 1845, the viscountess separated from her husband and she and her children went to live with her parents in Jersey.
In 1852, Charlotte said she ‘observed in the papers an announcement of the death of her husband (who did not in fact die until 1877)’ and on July 4, 1853, she went through a marriage ceremony with William. What is omitted from this account is that prior to this bigamous marriage a daughter Amy (1852-1919) was born to William and Charlotte in April of 1852. On July 28, 1853, two weeks after their ‘marriage’, William and Charlotte, with their children and Charlotte’s mother Anne Nicholson, boarded the Windsor and sailed to the colony of NSW arriving in Sydney on November 2, 1853. Why they decided to come to NSW is unknown, but perhaps they considered it prudent to remove themselves to a sphere where their past history was not known.
William applied for admission as a solicitor and proctor of the Supreme Court of NSW and was admitted on December 31, 1853, and commenced work as a solicitor in West Maitland in February of 1854. In 1855, he was appointed clerk of petty sessions for the police district of Maitland. During their time in Maitland, Charlotte gave birth to four sons: William (1854-1910), Hugh (1856-1929), Neville (1859-1859) and Alfred (1861-1933). Charlotte died in the February of 1879 and later that year, in November, William married Elizabeth Rourke (1837-1918), a family friend and co-worker with Charlotte in charitable work.
Maitland Benevolent Society
In 1885, some five years after Charlotte’s death and William’s marriage to Elizabeth, the Briggs left West Maitland and moved to Sydney. Upon the Briggs’ departure, the Committee of the Maitland Benevolent Society (MBS) expressed their
regret to record the loss (by removal to Sydney) of the valuable services of their late respected and energetic secretary Mr William Briggs, whose deep interest in the affairs of the Society, together with those of his estimable wife, from its very formation, contributed in a very great degree to raise it to its present important position. (more…)
John Thomas Neale died in Sydney in 1897 leaving an estate valued for probate at £804,945 ($12.2m current value) and in his will he made significant bequests to his wife Hannah as well as to family members and others. He also left some £18,500 ($2.8m current value) to various charitable organisations. As significant as these charitable bequests were, they were far exceeded by those made by his wife. Some 14 years after John’s death, Hannah died with an estate valued for probate at £758,997 ($13.9m current value) and she left some £47,500 ($5.7m current value) to various charities and the remainder of her estate to family and friends.
Who were John and Hannah Neale?
John Thomas Neal was born at Denham Court, Campbelltown, NSW, in 1823 to John Neale (1897-1875) an overseer and later a carcass butcher, and his wife Sarah Lee (1799-1855). John Thomas was one of 14 children; 12 lived to adulthood and in 1843, at the time of the birth of his youngest sibling, 10 still lived in the family home. John Thomas, the second son, married Hannah Maria Bull (1825-1911) the daughter of John and Elizabeth Mary Bull of Bull’s Hill, Liverpool, in August 1843; she was 18 and John 20 and they were never able to have children. John died at his Potts Point home, Lugarno, in September 1897, aged 74 and Hannah died at Lugarno in March 1911, aged 86.
John commenced building his fortune in the livestock trade following in his already wealthy father’s footsteps. Commencing initially in the Monaro district working on his father’s leased pastoral run Middlebank, he soon returned to Sydney to become a carcass butcher in his father’s business in Sussex Street.
As a carcass butcher, John would attend different cattle markets and purchase cattle or sheep. This required considerable skill and knowledge as there were no facilities for weighing the livestock and the carcass butcher needed to be able to estimate the weight and quality from an animal’s size and appearance. When the animal was killed, skinned and dressed, the carcass butcher would then sell it to a retail butcher.
In the nineteenth century, livestock were driven to Sydney across the Blue Mountains for sale in Sydney. Instead of waiting for the stock to arrive at the sale yards as other carcass butchers did Neale, in partnership with other enterprising young men, on hearing their probable date of arrival, would ride a day or two’s journey and meet the drovers. The potential buyers would band together and purchase the livestock on the spot, thereby restricting the supply to the other older more established carcass butchers, which enabled them to sell at a profit to the Sydney-based carcass butchers. With the capital John acquired over many years of this business, he purchased land and became a large property owner, also leasing pastoral runs and raising cattle and sheep for the meat market.
The former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Professor Allan Fels, commenting on the revelations about banking behaviour in the Royal Commission, has said
“… it’s now out there in public that this behaviour has been going on, widespread, shocking, unconscionable … It’s worse than I thought, more systemic, more unconscionable.”
Jeff Morris, the whistleblower on Commonwealth Bank activities, recently in receipt of $700 million dollar fine for ‘dodgy’ behaviour, sees it arising in part from the
“untrammelled greed of management fuelled by out-of-control bonus schemes based on Key Performance Indicators”.
Such are things today, but I want to take you to a happier banking time which was motivated not by profit but by philanthropy; to the time of the Penny Bank. “A penny saved is a penny gained” was a slogan used in NSW to promote the formation of Penny Banks and to encourage the poor to bank very small sums.
Where did the idea of Penny Banks originate and what was their purpose?
The Penny Bank (PB) in origin seems to have several stands to its DNA. In 1861 J D Langley, himself a banker and future bishop of the Church of England in Australia, drew attention to Priscilla Wakefield in Tottenham as the founder of the PB. In 1798, she founded the first ‘frugality bank’ in England to help those on low incomes to save money. Members paid, according to age, a monthly sum which would give them a pension after they were 60 years old and money if they were sick. In this function, it was more like a Friendly Society than a bank for it was a form of superannuation, the benefit of which was only available to its beneficiary at a certain date.
In 1808, a society was formed in Bath for the purpose of receiving the savings of industrious and respectable servants upon which interest of four per cent was paid. The management of the scheme was undertaken by a committee of eight, four of whom were ladies. PBs, which were open to all and where funds could be drawn at any stage, was a Scottish innovation being formed in West Calder by its minister the Rev John Muckersey in 1807 and then a short time later by the Rev Henry Duncan of Ruthwell in Dumfriesshire in 1810. Such banks, however, did not become commonplace in Scotland until decades later in the 1860s.
The aim of the PB was to encourage the less well-off to save very small sums ‘to encourage and foster habits of regularity and frugal economy’ and place them with the PB. In turn, this money would be deposited by the Trustees of the PB in a Savings Bank which would pay interest that was passed on to the PB depositor. The PB was necessary as the Savings Banks normally would only accept a minimum deposit of one shilling. Initially, the first NSW PB did not pay interest as it was intended only to ‘be a poor man’s purse to save his pence until they became shilling and pounds’ upon which time they could place their funds in a savings bank. It was considered, quite correctly, that calculating interest would be a significant burden on the administrators and so this initial PB was promoted as a ‘Safety Bank’ and not a ‘Savings’ Bank’. This was soon to change and PBs did pay interest. Depositors were encouraged to become a PB member as
You will have the advantage of feeling you are doing your duty to your family and yourself, and that you are placing your money where it will be safe, until sickness or old age, or some other cause compels you to ask for it again.
The first PBs in the colonies of Australia were at Unley in South Australia (1858), Dalby in Queensland (1859), Liverpool in New South Wales (1859), Geelong in Victoria (1862) and Launceston in Tasmania (1862). The way the PBs were organised was outlined in a newspaper article encouraging their formation:
Stephen Garton’s book Out of Luck, Poor Australians and Social Welfare, 1788-1988 (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1990) is an engaging and helpful summary book and I have enjoyed and benefited from reading it. It was written in 1990 but is still often quoted and so it is appropriate to suggest an amendment to the view it expresses on poverty, unemployment and philanthropy. In his introduction, Garton says:
The Gospels declare that the poor are always with us. If that is so then many commentators on Australia have ignored their existence. Opinion makers … have argued that poverty was negligible in Australia. Such men are part of a broad cultural stream which has perpetuated the image of Australia as a ‘workingman’s paradise’. But what of the man who could not find work? What of the women whose work was remunerated at lower levels than men or not at all if she worked at home? What of those too old or too ill to work and families without breadwinners to support them?
At one point in his book, Garton contrasts the views of nineteenth-century philanthropists and the colonial political radicals and liberals on the question of poverty and its solutions. He says that
For philanthropists selective charity and moral reform were the means to overcome the evil of idleness which caused poverty. But for radicals and liberals, supported by the emergent labour movement, a prosperous economy, property ownership and a fair day’s pay were the best means to ensure that Australia was a ‘workingman’s paradise’ free of the poverty that plagued the ‘old world’.
The conflict between philanthropic solutions to poverty and the strategies of liberals, radicals and labour was most acute in the face of the 1890s depression. In 1891 leading philanthropist Rev J. D. Langley argued that widespread unemployment was best tackled by renewed emphasis on work tests to discourage pauperism. In the same issue of the Sydney Quarterly Magazine prominent liberal B.R. Wise put the opposing view: ‘the bulk of poverty cannot be traced to personal vices but are attributable to industrial causes for which the sufferer is not responsible’. The real solution, according to Wise, was trade unionism, land taxation, the minimum wage, and worker co-operatives. This view challenged the philosophy of philanthropy.
Garton appropriately describes Langley as a leading philanthropist and thereby positions him as representative in his philanthropic views on poverty. This presentation of the attitudes of philanthropists, such as those of Langley, paints for the reader a picture of the philanthropists as out of touch with reality in solely seeing unemployment and the resultant poverty as a product of moral failure. Whereas, by contrast, the views of political liberals and radicals provided a realistic diagnosis and solution to the issue. That a simple dichotomy and characterisation is given in this concise, brief (approximately 170 pages) but wide-ranging history is understandable. The summary is a neat, clear-cut contrasting summary, but it is overly simplistic and misleading. There was much more to the thinking and action of Langley the philanthropist than selective charity and moralism.
In response, Garton’s presentation invites several questions. Did Langley the philanthropist think that poverty was caused by idleness? Did Langley believe that ‘widespread unemployment was best tackled by a renewed emphasis on work tests to discourage pauperism’? What place did philanthropists, such as Langley, think that ‘industrial causes’ had in contributing to poverty? (more…)
In the nineteenth century, Matrons were appointed to various institutions to oversee their domestic arrangements. The New South Wales Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution (DDBI) was governed by a Gentleman’s Committee, elected annually by subscribers, and a women’s committee, initially largely the wives of the gentlemen and referred to as the Ladies Visiting Committee (LVC), who directed the Matron in her duties.
At the DDBI, the Matron’s role had been spelt out in a report soon after its formation in 1862:
The domestic arrangements of the house are conducted by … the matron of the institution, who, under the direction of the ladies’ committee, superintends the internal affairs of the establishment; she also presides at table, accompanies the pupils in their walks, and regulates the general regime of the household.
Over time, this role would evolve in its complexity with the growth of the DDBI and with the increasing number of children under its care, but in essence, it remained the same. The Matron was required to keep a daily journal ‘of all proceedings in the house to be laid before the Committees at their meetings’, and on Sunday she was required to attend church with the children. Perhaps because of some unhappy incidents the by-laws, formulated a decade after the DDBI’s commencement, explicitly stated that ‘She shall treat the children with good nature and civility, and she shall never suffer any degree of cruelty, insolence or neglect in the servants towards them to pass unnoticed.’
Commentators were in no doubt that being the Matron of the DDBI was no easy task:
The post is a difficult one, requiring not only the kindly firmness necessary to the mistress of every such establishment, but an intimate knowledge of the peculiarities of the deaf and dumb – a knowledge which can only be acquired by long experience and patient observance.
Such a view emphasised just one of the relationships which made the role difficult. There were three relationships that were important and challenging for any Matron. Firstly, the relationship with the LVC to whom she was directly responsible and through them to the Gentleman’s Committee, secondly the relationship with the master in charge and other staff, and finally the relationship with the children themselves. The powerful LVC, under the influence of its long-time secretary Ann Goodlet, was probably the most important of these relationships and their attitudes about the Matron’s efficiency were formed by how well she administered the household. As part of the Matron’s administrative role the LVC were also concerned with staff relationships and how the children were treated.
No records of the LVC have survived, but the scope of their activities can be seen in their correspondence with the Gentleman’s Committee and the requests made by the Committee for the LVC’s assistance. Ann Goodlet, an active committee member from 1863, was appointed secretary of the LVC in 1873 and it is evident from the Committee’s minutes that she was most energetic in the pursuit of her duties. In this role, to which later was added that of president, Ann exercised great influence on the operations of the DDBI. The LVC was concerned with the selection and monitoring of the performance of the domestic staff. This included, most importantly, the appointment of the Matron, but it would appear to have even extended, on occasions, to the engagement of some of the teaching staff. The actual appointments were made by the Committee, but on the advice and recommendation of the LVC. Matrons seemed to have resigned to the LVC and such resignations were then forwarded to the directors. The views of the LVC, which were probably up to the end of the century largely those of their Secretary Mrs Goodlet, carried great weight and, on occasions, carried even greater weight than the judgement of their respected Superintendent, Samuel Watson.
Below are two tables which list Matrons from the commencement of the DDBI up to World War 1. One table is sorted by date of appointment the second by the age of the Matron at the time of her appointment. In the nineteenth century, (more…)
John Shedden Adam was born in 1824 in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, to James Adam (1771-1849) and Janet Shedden (1788-1863). James and Janet married on August 10, 1807, and they had eight children of whom John was the youngest son. John’s father was a man of many parts being an estate manager or factor, a land improver, a Writer to the Signet and the inventor of a screw propeller for naval ships. James was originally from Lochwinnoch where he had a small property and in 1807 was appointed the factor on the great Drummond estate. On his own account, he was later involved in land improvement schemes at Barr Loch from 1813 until 1815; these proved a financial disaster. Fortunately, by marrying into the Shedden family and through the wealth and generosity of Janet’s uncle, the Adam family did not face ruin and were later to inherit significant wealth. These Barr Loch holdings were sold by 1820 and on quitting agricultural pursuits and leaving Garpel near Lochwinnoch, James practised as a Writer to the Signet (solicitor) in Edinburgh, a profession to which he had been apprenticed.
Around 1821, James returned again to the role of factor (property manager) moving his family to Lewis where he worked for Mackenzie of Seaforth at least until 1826. Around this date, he moved back to Edinburgh and recommenced his business as a Writer to the Signet. John Shedden Adam, despite the strong family connections to Lochwinnoch where all his siblings were born and his relatives had significant landholdings, spent his childhood initially on Lewis and then from 5 years of age in Edinburgh. He went to school at the Royal Naval and Military Academy, Lothian Road, Edinburgh. This institution was commenced for the purpose of ‘affording education to pupils destined to serve in the army or navy, or East India Company’s service’. The Academy taught a range of practical subjects such as mathematics, science and engineering and languages but, importantly for Adam’s future work as a draftsman, it also taught landscape and perspective drawing. In 1841, John was awarded the Master’s prize in senior mathematics and first prize in civil engineering.
The Adam Family and New Zealand
By 1841, the extended Adam family had decided to seek their fortune in New Zealand. John’s brother James and his wife Margaret took passage to New Zealand on the Brilliant and arrived in October of that year. The Adam family had been convinced by the New Zealand Manukau and Waitemata Company to invest £1,200 in shares for land and were led to believe that the wonderful city of Cornwallis was ready and waiting for energetic young immigrants, such as themselves, from Scotland. The settlement was a disaster. Where settlers expected there to be a town there was nothing but wilderness, and they had been duped by exaggerated promises. Sadly, the settlement leader, together with James Adam and several others, going on an errand of mercy to get medicine for a sick woman (Mrs. Hamblin, wife of the Missionary at Manukau) were drowned in November of 1841 and the plans of the Adam family were thrown into disarray.
The Home Visiting and Relief Society (HVRS) was originally to be called after the ‘Poor Room-keeper’s Society’. This was the shortened name of ‘The Sick and Indigent Room-keepers Society’ formed in Dublin in 1790. It was decided, however, that the proposed name did not do justice to the aims of this new society and so it was named the ‘Home Visiting Relief Society’. As Sir Alfred Stephen said ‘it was very desirable that the name of the society should be such as should carry with it to the public an impression of what its purposes were’. The leading objects of the HVRS were that of
visiting, at their own homes, such of the distressed inhabitants of Sydney as belonged to the educated classes and had seen better days, but who had been reduced to poverty, and who, from their position, from their more refined feelings and associations, were utterly unable to go into the streets to beg, and who were pained at the very idea of soliciting charity in any form.
In Sydney the formation of HVRS was discussed in the Judges’ Chambers at the Supreme Court Sydney on December 16, 1861 at a meeting chaired by Sir Alfred Stephen. It was attended by Mr Justice Wise, Mr Justice Milford, Sir W M Manning, the Rev A H Stephen, Dr Douglass and five or six other gentlemen that included Captain Samuel North, Dr Charles and probably John M’Lerie, Richard Jones and Captain Scott. According to Sir W M Manning it was Dr Henry Grattan Douglass whose proposal it was to form such a society and that he took the idea from a society of the kind that had existed for some time in Ireland (the ‘Poor Room-Keeper’s Society’). So, as Manning said, the origin of the Society was due to Ireland and an Irishman. The nucleus of the society’s funds was £100 which Douglass managed to persuade W C Wentworth to give, being a month of his salary as President of the Legislative Council.
John Nicholson Mailer (1825-1892) was born in Edinburgh to Andrew Mailer, a stone mason, and Marion Nicholson. His older brothers, Andrew and Robert, were shoemakers and John, at aged 16, was also apprenticed to that trade. John became a bookbinder, however, and married Mary Cochrane in July, 1852 in Edinburgh at St Cuthbert’s. Andrew and Robert emigrated to America; Andrew in 1849 and his brother Robert and his mother Mary sometime before 1851. John and Mary decided to come to Australia and arrived in the colony of New South Wales in November 1854. Their eldest son Andrew (1854-1902) was born in Scotland and the Mailers had four other children in Australia: John Henry (1857-1887), Robert Adam Thomson (1861-1925), Mary (1862-1937)  and Ida Marion (1868-1868).
In Sydney, John found work in his trade as a book binder and became an assistant to James W Waugh in Waugh and Cox’s stationery and bookselling business in 1855. In November 1862, John purchased the business operating at 286 George Street, Sydney, and advertised himself as a stationer and account book manufacturer, telling potential customers that ‘his practical knowledge of the Account Book Manufacture enables him to assure those who may favour him with their patronage that nothing will be supplied but such as are of the best material, workmanship, and latest improvements.’ The business did not appear to prosper and by August 1864 all his assets were assigned to Trustees on behalf of his creditors and by November 1865, he had decided to cease trading and by December 1865, all his stock had been sold to pay off the creditors.
In 1866, it had been necessary for the jointly operated bookshop of the British and Foreign Bible Society and Religious Tract and Book Society (RTS) to dismiss their depository and to seek a new appointment. The Society had not been served well by its recent appointments as in 1862 the then depository, Joseph Holloway Morrison, was found guilty of embezzlement of society funds to the amount of about £600. The newly advertised position attracted a salary of £250 with residence at the Bible Hall, Pitt Street, and the successful applicant was also required to post a security of £500.  John Mailer applied and was appointed.
The Australian Religious Tract Society (RTS) was inaugurated in Sydney, NSW, on August 13, 1823 at the suggestion of the then Governor of the colony, Sir Thomas Brisbane. It appears that this was not purely a colonial initiative, however, for a few months prior to Brisbane’s suggestion the Religious Tract Society in London (RTSL) had had their attention drawn to the colony of New South Wales and to its spiritual needs. Within 30 days of the formation of the RTS, the Rev Richard Hill received an unsolicited consignment of books from the RTSL in the hope he might extend the operations of the RTSL in the colony. So, within a month of its formation and not the ten months, it would have required to obtain stock from England, the RTS could begin its work. The purpose of the society was the procuring and distribution of religious tracts ‘such as to inculcate evangelic sentiments.’ More expansively, its primary object was
to afford the means of cheap, useful, and pious Reading; that the poorer Classes of the Community, and the young People more especially, who may be able to read, may obtain some of the most instructive and important Lessons of Life at a very small Expense.
Its governing committee consisted of the Reverends Richard Hill (Assistant Chaplain, Anglican), John Dunmore Lang (Presbyterian), Benjamin Carvosso (Wesleyan), William Cowper (Secretary, Anglican) and three laymen James Chandler, Alexander Kenneth Mackenzie (Treasurer) with George Williams as Collector and Depositary. William Cowper was a driving force of the society being its secretary for the first 16 years of its existence only relinquishing the role of secretary in 1839 when his eyesight began to fail.
By 1826, the Society had obtained the support of the Governor as Patron, its funds had increased and some 62,882 tracts had been circulated during the year. The society was the beneficiary of support from ‘home’ through grants from the Tract Societies of London, Bristol and Dublin upon which the RTS had been modelled. Initially, support for the society was strong and numerous ladies attended its annual meeting and this was a sufficiently novel occurrence that their attendance, which ‘enlivened the meeting with their presence’, was especially remarked upon.
Committee reports mentioned numerous responses to the receipt of various tracts by members of the public which indicate what the RTS saw as desirable outcomes from its work:
… in the course of conversation he informed me that he had been a professed Atheist until within a few months, but that the perusal of a tract – the Dairyman’s Daughter, I believe, had been instrumental in awakening him from his own vain dreams. He wished to partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and afterwards he did so.
Many instances of good, resulting from the circulation of your tracts, have occurred within the last year or two. Some are now united with Christian churches, who, but for these silent messengers, might have remained dead in sin. One old woman, between eighty and ninety years of age, discovered by a tract distributor, ignorant and indifferent, is now giving evidence of a saving change wrought in her heart by the Spirit of God.
Samuel Goold was born in 1820 in Norton Lindsay, Warwickshire, England, the son of William Goold, variously described as a miller or a grocer, and his wife Elizabeth Canning. Samuel was their fifth son of nine children. Two of his brothers, John and Jabez, also came to the colony of NSW at some stage. In 1847, Samuel married Mary Ann Johnson at the Tottenham Baptist Chapel and his profession was given as ‘Missionary’. Mary Ann was the daughter of Philip Johnson, a shoemaker, and his wife Mary and was born in 1819 at the workhouse of St Botolph, Aldgate, London. At the age of 13 she became a member of the Congregational Church, worshipping in the Poultry Chapel, London, then under the care of the Rev John Clayton Jnr (1780-1865).
Arrival in the colony of New South Wales
Together with Mary Ann’s mother and sister, Samuel arrived in Queensland in January 1849 aboard the Fortitude, Rev Dr John Dunmore Lang’s first chartered immigrant ship. Samuel had been an apprentice and was probably an apprentice draper, but his profession on the shipping lists was given as ‘bricklayer’. It has been suggested that he helped build the Roman Catholic Chapel in Elizabeth Street, Brisbane, but this cannot be possible as the Fortitude arrived in Morton Bay on 21 January 1849, and its passengers were quarantined as there were cases of typhus on board. The first mention of ‘Mr Gould, the builder’ in connection with the Roman Catholic Chapel, is on 31 January 1849 while Samuel Goold was still in quarantine.
Samuel and his wife did not remain in Brisbane but travelled to Sydney in September 1849. It is not known if their departure was a result of disillusionment with the unfulfilled promises of Lang concerning the provision of land for the immigrants or whether it was related to the death of their infant son, Samuel, which occurred a few weeks before. In Sydney, however, they wasted no time linking with the (more…)
In the 1980s, historians of colonial female refuges, and of the Sydney Female Refuge (SFR) in particular, tended to see these organisations, and by inference those who organised them, as largely punitive in intent. Contrary to the stated aims of the SFR, the driving motives are presented not primarily as compassion, concern and a desire to help the women themselves but rather as the protection of society from such women.
O’Brien says that the function of the home of the Sydney Female Refuge Society (SFR Society) was largely punitive and that of all the homes of this sort ‘it seems colder and more horrible than most’. Godden’s assessment is that the Sydney refuges for the prostitutes run by the Roman Catholics and the Evangelicals were repressive and harsh, but that
perhaps the greatest imperviousness to change was at the Protestant Sydney Female Refuge. It was rebuilt in 1903 on the same prison-like lines adhered to in 1848 and inmates were still addressed by number and not name.
More recently published work, however, has sought to soften such an assessment and on a closer examination of the evidence has pointed out that such claims made about the functioning of the SFR do not seem to be justified and that by their stated aims and practice the SFR ‘does not deserve to be regarded as punitive, repressive, self-serving, cold and horrible’. While there are some signs of a more positive assessment of the refuges emerging some dubious claims about the refuges are still being made.
On the positive side and helpfully O’Brien, in her recently published Philanthropy and Settler Colonialism, reminds us that the refuges can be viewed more generally against the background of the need to provide women in various circumstances with shelter. Such a need was clearly seen by the philanthropists themselves. Ann Goodlet, who was deeply involved in the SFR as its secretary and its leading worker, had this broader approach to the protection of women both physically and morally in colonial society. She was significantly involved in founding and/or promoting of, to quote O’Brien, ‘homes that were arranged along the moral continuum’. These were the Servants and Governesses Home (formerly known as The Sydney Female Home), the YWCA, the Sydney Female Mission Home (SFMH) and the SFR. The first two organisations were morally proactive being protective and preventative by providing accommodation for single women alone in the city. The second two organisations were reactive and designed to assist those women who were in trouble, having been seduced and abandoned or who were prostitutes wishing to change their lives.
In 1902 the Hawkesbury Herald wrote that
No man more truly deserved the name of philanthropist than Mr Comrie … he busied himself during the later years of his life by doing good by stealth. The perfume of good deeds, however, always betrays the doer sooner or later…
Another paper described James Comrie as a ‘literary philanthropist.’ What were his activities ‘the perfume of good deeds’ that that led him to be deserving of the designation of ‘philanthropist’ and that of a ‘literary philanthropist’ in particular? How was he able to be a philanthropist of note and “Who was James Comrie?” for he is, to-day, a largely unknown figure.
James Comrie was a Scot, born in Edinburgh 1 May 1816 and he died at Kurrajong Heights at Northfield on 2 November 1902. He was the youngest of eleven children born to Peter and Helen Comrie. James’ father died when he was two years old and he was raised by his pious Presbyterian mother. Though his mother was a ‘strict Presbyterian she had a catholic spirit, and took her children sometimes to hear Dr Thomas McCrie, Christopher Anderson, and Wesleyan ministers’. James himself was to emulate this religious catholicity, interacting and enjoying the company of Christians of all persuasions. His schooling must also have added to his non-sectarian outlook for he attended a Quaker school.
The Church Labour Home (CLH) owed its existence to the Venerable Archdeacon John Douse Langley. It was founded by Langley in 1891 with ‘the view of assisting a class entitled to the deepest sympathy … those poverty stricken- genuinely desirous of work but unable to obtain it’.
Langley was born at Ballyduff, County Waterford, Ireland, on May 17, 1836, and was the son of Henry Langley and Isabella Edwardes Archdall. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1853 and arrived in Sydney with his parents and four siblings in December 1853. He associated himself with the fledgling YMCA and for a short time was joint Honorary Secretary with Sharp H Lewis. He contributed to the ministry of the YMCA in this role for some two years and also conducted an evening class in mathematics for the YMCA. Langley was an employee of the Bank of Australasia from about 1857 and around 1858 or 1859 was appointed to look after the branch at West Maitland where he remained until 1868 after which time he moved to the Newcastle branch. He was the manager there until he resigned in 1872 in order to enter Moore College to train for the Anglican ministry. Langley was ordained deacon and later priest in 1873 and served as the incumbent of Berrima with Mittagong, 1873-75; St David’s, Surry Hills, Sydney, 1875-81; secretary of the Church Society, 1880-83; and rector of St Phillip’s Sydney, 1882-1907. He was elected the second bishop of Bendigo and consecrated in January 1907, resigned from the diocese in June 1919, retired to Melbourne and died 11 years later in 1930.
Langley was a busy churchman and was involved in many things within the Anglican Church as well as in the community, but in the 1890s he became very involved in assisting the jobless. By 1890, there was a growing unemployment problem brought on by the conditions that led to a major economic downturn in this period. In February 1890, a meeting of about 500 people, chaired by G E Ardill, met to consider the plight of those who wished to work but could not find employment. A deputation was formed, of which Langley was a member, to wait upon the Minister of Works and to encourage the Government to increase employment through a capital works program. More importantly and more effectively, as the deputation did not receive much benefit from its meeting with the minister, a committee was formed to see what could be done in a practical way to assist the destitute unemployed. By the following month, under the chairmanship (more…)
Thomas Roberts (1805-1871) Missionary and Artist and Mary Roberts (1808-1890) Matron, Sydney Female Refuge
On November 10, 1852, Thomas Roberts, a portrait painter, and his wife Mary (nee Griffiths) arrived in Melbourne with seven of their children on the Hope to begin a new life in Port Phillip. The children were Samuel (20), Ellen (18), Sarah (16), Hartley (14), Elizabeth (5), Emma (4) and Walter (1). Thomas was born in Denbighshire, Wales, and had spent a number of years in Manchester at least from the time of his marriage in 1830 until sometime before January 1846 when he and the family moved to London. In Manchester, the family had been involved with the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church Chapel in Cooper Street.
Thomas not only worked as a portrait painter, but he also served for several years as a London City Missionary and, according to Thomas’ grandson, he received a ‘lay reader’s commission from the Bishop of London to act as a chaplain on board the ship’ on their trip to Australia. Thomas and also his two daughters, Ellen and Sarah, came to the colony under the auspices of the Colonial Church and School Society (CCSS) whose purpose was sending out clergymen, catechists and school teachers (both male and female) to the Colonies of Great Britain and to British residents in other parts of the world. Ellen, was appointed in charge of the St Mark’s Girl’s school Collingwood, and Sarah also worked for several years as a school mistresses in Melbourne. The CCSS was formed from pre-existing Anglican Evangelical Societies (Newfoundland School Society and the Colonial Church Society) on January 1, 1851, and the Rev Mesac Thomas (afterwards first Bishop of Goulburn in New South Wales in 1863) was appointed its Secretary.
Robert Sidaway (1758-1809) is the first person to be designated a philanthropist in the newspapers of colonial NSW. At his death in October 1809, the 51 year old was described as
one of the first inhabitants of this Colony; during his very long residence in which he ever supported the reputation of a true philanthropist, and in all other respects a valuable member of society, in which he was universally respected.
In 1782, Robert had been convicted of theft and later of absconding from custody and was sentenced to transportation to NSW for life. He travelled on the Friendship as part of the First Fleet and was regarded as troublesome spending some time on the journey in irons. He received an absolute pardon on 27 September 1794. Robert was awarded a contract to be a baker for the troops and also received a liquor license so that he could run a public house. In 1796, he was operating the first theatre in Sydney which was eventually closed by the Governor as it was considered a corrupting influence. At this time, he also had a farm at the Field of Mars where he grew maize and wheat. From very early in his time in the colony, at least from November 1789 when they worked together in Robert’s bake-house, Robert had been living with ‘Mrs’ Mary Marshall (1756-1849) and she had become his common-law wife. In 1788, Mary had come as a convict in the First Fleet on the Lady Penrhyn having been convicted for stealing linen handkerchiefs in 1787 and sentenced to seven years transportation. It appears that, with Mary’s assistance, Robert had managed to quickly establish himself within colonial life and was moderately well off and prosperous for, by 1797, he was said to have accumulated more than £3,000.
The wording of his death notice, designating Robert as a ‘philanthropist’, seems to indicate at least two things. Firstly, that he had a reputation as a philanthropist. The community view was that his philanthropy was not related to a single event, but that it was an attitude and activity over the considerable period of his time of residence in the colony. Secondly, that he was thought of as a ‘true’ philanthropist. This suggests that his philanthropy was regarded as genuine and not an activity with any ulterior motive. His philanthropy, together with that of Mary, could not have been expressed through any charitable organisation such as the Benevolent Society which only began in 1813, but must have been through their personal dealings.
Abraham Samuel Gordon was, in the late nineteenth century, a leading organiser of charity Art Unions in Australia. As early as the 1840s, the Art Union appeared in the colony of NSW when Maurice Felton, an artist, advised ‘his subscribers that the division of his Oil Paintings among the Shareholders will take place THIS DAY, the 14th January 1842.’  This procedure adopted by Felton was modelled on the English practice where an artist sold tickets for the disposal of a body of his works of art. These were raffles where the artist was the beneficiary of the proceeds.
Gordon refined this early process and ran across most colonies of Australia what were, in essence, lotteries for the purpose of raising funds for charity, though some suggested that the main charitable beneficiary of these ‘Art Unions’ was Gordon himself. In the 1890s, a depression hit Australia and unemployment increased as businesses were bankrupted and ceased operation and giving for charitable purposes was significantly reduced as individuals sought to prune their expenditure. This took place against the background of an increasing need for the services of the various benevolent institutions as the unemployed applied for assistance. So when a fundraising opportunity presented itself to various charitable bodies via Gordon’s Art Unions it was, to many charities, a great opportunity to gain access to much-needed funds.
Gordon’s background is obscure. He said that he was born in Szagarren, Russia, which is now in Lithuania, on the Baltic and near Riga where his father was a feldsher (Surgeon) and his mother a mid-wife. He travelled to London when he was 15 or 16 to join his eldest brother and to find work to support himself and said that, consistent with his birthplace, he knew well the Russian, German and French languages and had a fair knowledge of Hebrew and the Talmudic lore. Gordon remained in London for two years, went to Cardiff in Wales then, around 1885, moved to Codoxton ‘where they were building a new dock’ and where he went into business with his younger brother Isaac selling furniture, jewellery and fancy goods. He said he was in England and Wales for five years before coming to Australia which would mean he left to come to Australia sometime around 1887. It seems likely, therefore, that he is the ‘Albert Gordon’ who arrived on the Potosi in July, 1887.
John Sidney played an important role in the nineteenth-century charity scene primarily as a charity secretary but also as a collector, however, little is known about his personal life. He was English and the son of John Sidney, a medical doctor, and his wife Mary nee Johnson. Born in 1846 and living at some stage in Rochester, Kent, he also seems to have been well acquainted with Devon and Cornwall. It is uncertain when he arrived in the colony of NSW, but it was probably sometime in early 1877 and it is possible that he had been a member of the London Stock Exchange; he was certainly quite familiar with London. Prior to his arrival in the colony, John had been married in England to Susan (maiden name unknown) but she either did not come with him to the colony or, if she did, she returned to England from NSW. It is most likely that she never came as no trace of her has been found in NSW or elsewhere in Australia. Early in February 1887, a notice appeared in two Sydney newspapers advising that Susan, aged 35, the wife of J Sidney, had died at her father’s residence in Torquay, Devon. No date of death was given, but less than a month later John Sidney married Margaret Thomson Cameron. At no time, between his arrival and the insertion of the notice of Susan’s death, had John returned to England so it would seem that he and his first wife had been, for whatever reason, estranged. Two male children were born to John and his second wife Margaret, but it seems they died at birth or in infancy as there is no contemporary record of either their births or their deaths. John himself died in 1916 at 70 years of age. At this time he was a recipient of the recently introduced Commonwealth Government pension and was the onsite caretaker of the Royal Society at 5 Elizabeth Street, Sydney.
Health Society of NSW (HSNSW)
Sidney’s name is first mentioned in charitable circles in 1877 in association with his role as the collector for the Health Society of NSW (HSNSW), an organisation formed in August, 1876. Henry Burton Bradley was the leading advocate of the Society which sought to alert others to various community health issues within Sydney. Initially employed by Bradley as a collector of funds, John Sidney was soon given the task of investigating public baths in Sydney. His comprehensive report pointed to problems of sewage within the Sydney Harbour and for the need to ultimately find another method of disposing of it. In his report he took the initiative to comment upon the supply of meat and on animal welfare at the abattoir prior to slaughter. He found that at the Glebe abattoir on a hot day, the animals were ‘packed as close as sardines’ which he compared unfavourably to the process he saw implemented in London. His association with the HSNSW was short-lived and he seems to have concluded his role as secretary and collector in 1881. Sidney’s time with the HSNSW, however, began a life-long friendship with Henry Burton Bradley and probably brought him to the attention of the Western Suburbs Horticultural Society of which Bradley was the President. Sidney became secretary for this group in 1878 and retained the position until the end of 1881. His time with the HSNSW also brought him to the attention of those interested in promoting animal welfare in NSW. (more…)
The ‘Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ was founded in Britain in 1824 by a group of 22 reformers led by Richard Martin MP, William Wilberforce MP, and the Reverend Arthur Broome. In 1840, it was granted its royal status by Queen Victoria to become the ‘Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (RSPCA), as it is known today. Its influential members lobbied Parliament throughout the nineteenth century which resulted in a number of new laws such as the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835.
It took the Colony of New South Wales nearly 50 years before it began to form a similar society and the catalyst was a letter that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 3, 1873, observing that
Not a day passes without our being pained, usque ad nauseam, with the most wanton cases of cruelty to animals. In these prosperous times it behoves us surely to devote a little of our time and money to the redress of this grievance.
This letter drew attention to the boast of their ‘go-ahead sister’, colonial Victoria, of the ‘entire absence of such barbarities’ from their colony; a claim due to the existence of an organisation for the prevention of cruelty to animals. In response to this letter, supported by the Sydney Morning Herald and after various small preparatory meetings, a public meeting was called on July 16, 1873, to form such a society in Sydney.
The society, named the ‘Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (SPCA), had as its patron the Governor Sir Hercules Robinson, Charles AW Lett as the honorary secretary, Alfred Sandeman as the honorary treasurer and Thomas Mitchie as the honorary veterinary surgeon, while the committee was made up of prominent male citizens of Sydney. The primary focus of the SPCA was the detection and prosecution of those guilty of animal cruelty.
At the 1878 annual meeting of the society, where the SPCA was renamed the ‘Animal’s Protection Society’ (APS), the Rev Dr William F Clay expressed the view that measures beyond inspection and prosecution were needed to ensure the protection of animals. He advocated for
the delivery of lectures such as were given in England, and by which the young might be trained to the proper treatment of dumb animals. Prizes had already been given in connection with this subject, and might be given again. Could not the pulpit, he would ask, be brought to deal with this matter.’
In 1885, a letter to the editor of the SMH, signed ‘Beth’ of Hunter’s Hill, was published. It advocated the formation of juvenile branches of the SPCA in connection with the schools along the lines of the Bands of Mercy in England and America. Unknown to ‘Beth’ and the general public, however, such a work had already begun, but knowledge about such Bands of Mercy would only become more widely known after the formation of a woman’s branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Sydney on December 16, 1886.
Initially, the women’s branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (WSPCA) did not use the prefix ‘Royal’ in its title (see Timeline and Terminology of Animal Protection in Britain and NSW), but did so shortly after its formation when it sought and believed it was granted affiliation with the parent body of the RSPCA in Britain. In 1896, a question was raised as to the right of the committee to use the prefix ‘Royal’ and its use was discontinued. While the WSPCA consisted only of women, there was a male honorary secretary, John Sidney, who was also the paid secretary of the APS. Sidney’s membership was obviously at the invitation of the women, and was presumably because the WSPCA saw the need for his knowledge and experience, as well as his being their direct link to the APS and its activities.
In the 1870s, the development of housing for working class single men was an issue that many thought needed to be addressed. To do this a group of philanthropically minded men decided to form a limited liability company with shareholders to address the matter. This charity was different to most and was not, strictly speaking, a charity as those who benefited had to pay for the benefit they received and the shareholders were to receive a dividend from their investment. The project was called the Model Lodging House Company of Sydney (Limited) (MLHL). There was already a Model Lodging House in Melbourne which commenced in 1871, but it proved more difficult to commence one in Sydney. The purpose of the company was ‘to furnish in Sydney accommodation for the poor of the hard-working classes, who have no homes of their own, a shelter by night, both healthful and decent, at a cost which will make the institution self-supporting, and which may in the course of years pay a moderate dividend to the shareholders.’ The principle of the MLH was that the working man did not need charity in the narrow sense of the term and so they were determined to make the MLH pay. They did not intend to disparage the broad principle of charity, but they wished to avoid the ‘eleemosynary [Latin for charity] element’ in an institution that should stand alone.
First efforts to commence a MLHL were made in 1874 by Alfred Stephen but were unsuccessful. Henry Burton Bradley (1815-1894), Secretary of the Health Society of New South Wales (HSNSW) again raised the matter in 1876 and under the banner of the HSNSW continued to pursue the matter approaching Josiah Mullens to enlist his support for such a venture. In August of 1877, the HSNSW agreed to attempt to float a company in order to raise the capital to build a lodging house initially to accommodate 100 with FH Reuss (Snr) giving his services as an architect to design the building. In February 1878, Bradley, ever positive and hopeful, was reported as saying that commencement of the building was to soon begin. The company was formed with a capital of £5,000, 1000 shares of £5 each, its directors being Thomas Buckland, James Reading Fairfax, Alexander Stuart with Josiah Mullens the broker, Henry Burton Bradley the Secretary and John Sidney was the collector. (more…)
In March 1858, a letter appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) advising that there was a project afoot to ‘provide a temporary home for young females of the better classes arriving in the colony without friends, and consequently liable to be thrown into distressing or dangerous circumstances’. Such an institution was to be opened on the same principles as the Young Men’s Christian Association and a notice soon appeared advertising a public meeting to mature the proposal. The institution was to be, said the writer, ‘entirely unsectarian, and by the blessing of God it may be hoped that it will be of incalculable advantage.’
A notice duly appeared shortly after calling a meeting, to be chaired by the Governor General, Sir William Denison, to consider some means proposed for the ‘Welfare and Improvement of Young Women.’ The notice also advised, what would have been a significant novelty for a public meeting of this sort, that ‘A Lady’ will, in the course of the proceedings, address the meeting’.
‘The Lady’ who spoke was Maria Therese Forster, a young German-born widow who seems not to have had any significant social connections, but who had great powers of persuasion and passion concerning the fate of young friendless women. Maria spoke at length at the well-attended meeting, and actually read her speech because of her ‘broken language’. The speech was an amazing flow of spiritual concepts which led the Bishop of Sydney to call her the ‘German spiritualiser’. Ambrose Foss declared it ‘pious, zealous, and soul-stirring’, while Charles Kemp said ‘that she had a force of language and a power of eloquence that few even of the daughters of England possessed.’ One observer noted that ‘there was an air of enthusiasm about her countenance, and a womanly affection in her demeanour and her conduct, which quite prepossessed her audience’.
Maria read for nearly an hour and ‘you might have heard a pin fall in any part of the large hall’. Her speech focused on the theme that women are ‘ordained by God’s law to become the very centre of happiness to mankind’ therefore provision for their safety and nurture in the colony was essential. She provided an outline of two proposed organisations, one for the accommodation of ‘the better class’ to be called The Young Women’s Christian Temporary Home and Institution for Mental and Mutual Improvement and one for ‘the servant class’ to be called The Temporary Home for Respectable Female Servants.
A committee of some ladies, married to high profile members of the Sydney community, was appointed to mature the plan discussed and to begin to put it into operation. The committee consisted of Lady Eleanor Stephen, Lady Elizabeth Cooper, Mrs Jane Barker, Mrs Ann Deas Thomson, Mrs Robert Campbell, Mrs Emily Stephen, Mrs Jane Allen, Mrs a’Beckett, Mrs Archdeacon Cowper and Mrs Maria Forster. By July of 1858 there was a Ladies Board of Management of 29 ladies plus an honorary treasurer and secretary, Mrs Susan Roberts, with her husband Dr Alfred (later Sir) giving free medical assistance, together with a gentlemen’s reference committee of seven. Also promulgated was a very detailed preface and fifteen rules. The result was not two separate homes determined by class but one home:
The Sydney Female Home … designed to be a place where respectable females, but of every degree, and without regard to creed or country, may resort when out of employment, and there find all the security, protection , and comfort of a plain, well-ordered home, with every facility for procuring from thence occupation suitable to their respective callings.
The Female Home, which opened on October 1, 1858, was soon renamed the Governesses and Servants Home so that it would not be confused with the Sydney Female Mission Home and the Sydney Female Refuge. After a year or so of operation it was popularly referred to as The Servant’s Home and then simply THE HOME. The provision of accommodation, or a home, with an appointed matron, was central to the work of THE HOME and the organization hoped to erect its own building, but instead continued in rented premises for the whole of its existence. Initially, it was located at 296 Castlereagh Street, then from 1859 at 103 Elizabeth Street North, from 1861 at 195 Castlereagh Street, then from 1864 at 98 Elizabeth Street North, and finally from 1871 at Cowper Terrace, 23 Clarence Street. After September 1890, advertisements placed by THE HOME for positions for servants ceased and the work disappears from view. It most probably ceased to function. (more…)
On May 3, 1905, the first section of the Benevolent Society Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington, Sydney, was opened. The new hospital had been partly furnished through the efforts of the Ladies’ Committee of the Lying-in Department (maternity section) of the Benevolent Asylum, by individual donors and from the funds, some £1,321 19s 0d, of the defunct Sydney Dorcas Society (SDS). Rathbone, the historian of the Benevolent Society, identifies this society as the Dorcas Society of the Presbyterian Church, but this is incorrect as the Presbyterian group was not formed until much later.
The SDS, from which the funds came, was formed in January of 1830, was a society controlled and largely funded by women, and was once described as ‘another of those gems of benevolence which sparkle with so pure a lustre in the crown of Australia.’ Its object was to ‘relieve poor married women during the month of their confinement, with necessary clothing and other things, as the individual case may require’. This was for the relief of poor women, not in a lying-in facility or hospital, but in their own homes or what nineteenth century philanthropic discourse termed ‘out of doors’ assistance. The society also saw that a midwife was always provided.
The names of only three midwives used by the Society are known: Mrs Brown, Mrs Hannah Palser and Mrs Georgiana Harrison, and little is known of their qualifications, their backgrounds or periods of service. Initially, Mrs Brown attended in a voluntary capacity, but due to increasing calls for her services the Committee felt bound to remunerate her for each case she attended. It appears Mrs Brown worked for the SDS until the end of the first decade of its operation, but then a curious newspaper announcement by the SDS appeared in March 1840 denying they had awarded Mrs Brown a medal (presumably for her services). The notice indicated that such a medal ‘was firmly refused when application was made for it by Mrs Brown’ and this firm refusal may indicate a dispensing with of her services and an unwillingness to recommend her to others.
Mrs Hannah Palser acted as midwife for the SDS from about 1839 until 1854. After some ten years with the SDS one case led to her being criticised by Dr D J Tierney for being either ‘very inattentive or extremely ignorant’. Both Hannah Palser, who claimed to be able to present ‘certificates of ability and character from some of the most eminent of the medical profession,’ and the SDS vigorously defended her work and the SDS indicated that because of her exemplary record they had no intention of withdrawing their confidence in her. There was the suggestion by Palser that the criticisms of Tierney, who sought to start a ‘lying in’ facility as opposed to the ‘lying out of doors’ in their own home approach of the SDS, were not altogether objective.
The only other midwife known to have worked for the SDS was a Georgiana Harrison. She worked as a midwife in Sydney from 1867 until 1890, shortly before her death in 1891. Her period of service with the SDS is unknown, but is likely to have been from around 1866 to around 1880 and her qualifications for the work seem to have been her own experiences of giving birth to at least seven children.
The attention at births of a SDS midwife alone, without a doctor, was a practice that had worked well and without any significant problems for nearly twenty years. In 1849 Palser, who was an experienced SDS midwife and who had overseen over a hundred trouble free deliveries, attended a patient who tragically died. After this the SDS resolved to change their procedures and it was decided to give the midwife or a Committee member the authority to call in, where necessary, a doctor and the SDS would pay for the visit. Initially, the services of Dr Thomas Russell Duigan were used, but later the nearest available doctor was summoned.  What fees a midwife was paid over the lifetime of the SDS is unknown, but in 1849 she was paid ten shillings per delivery. The midwife was required to visit the patient four times, apart from attendance upon the birth, on the second, third, fifth and ninth days after that event.
The Sydney Female Mission Home (SFMH), not to be confused with the Sydney Female Refuge Society (SFRS), was commenced on November 17, 1873, in rented premises overlooking Hyde Park, Sydney. Like the SFRS, this charity falls in a number of places on the philanthropic spectrum being both for relief and improvement. The SFMH was a protestant organisation providing short-term accommodation for pregnant unmarried women and it had a non-sectarian admission policy. It was said that the ‘necessity of such a Home has been strongly felt by several ladies and gentlemen, in consequence of facts which frequently come under their notice.’ The Home was entirely run and governed by women and of the 14 members of the founding Committee, no fewer than eight were involved with the SFRS. It is likely that, from this experience, they understood the need for an organisation with a different intake and policy than that of the SFRS.
While the task of the SFRS was to provide a refuge for prostitutes, the purpose of the SFMH was to provide temporary accommodation ‘for women who either had fallen, or were in danger of falling from virtue’. The initial focus of the work was to be on those young women who found themselves pregnant and abandoned, most of whom were ‘women who have only taken one serious wrong step, and have not been hardened in sin’. In the assessment of the Committee, an institution such as the SFMH met ‘a great social necessity’ and was ‘an unspeakable blessing to weak women who have fallen prey to the cunning devices of unprincipled men’.
The needs that were presented to the Committee shortly after the Home opened caused them to change the Admission Policy. It was changed to include not only pregnant unmarried women, but some unmarried mothers with their infants, many of whom were in a state of destitution. In the first year of its operation the Home had 115 admissions which included 11 infants, and by the end of 1874 it was thought that a larger house, which could accommodate more than 12 residents, was required to meet the needs, as many young women with babies had to be turned away. For those admitted, attempts were made to locate the fathers of the children so that they could ‘feel their responsibility to make some provision for the maintenance of their offspring’. These attempts rarely met with success and as a result the Committee lamented that ‘the seduced, and less guilty, has to bear the whole burden’. They also made efforts to ensure that either the young women returned to their families or, if this was not possible, they sought to gain employment situations for the women where they could keep and nurture their children. A fundamental principle of the SFMH was to ‘avoid, if possible, separating mother and child’ and the Committee
being decidedly of [the] opinion that the mother is the natural and fittest guardian of the infant … used their utmost endeavours in all cases to induce the mothers to faithfully fulfil their maternal duties, and not, under any circumstances, to give up their babes to the care of strangers.
Thomas Walker was, during his lifetime and at his death, widely praised as a great philanthropist. He was variously described as ‘the Peabody’ of NSW and as a ‘Man of Ross’. Such designations comparing him to other famous philanthropists were underlined by his very large bequest given to build a convalescent hospital which came to bear his name. At his death, quoting Horace Mann, one tribute to Thomas recorded that
‘the soul of the truly benevolent man does not seem to reside much in his own body. It migrates into the life of others, and finds its own happiness in increasing and prolonging their pleasures, in extinguishing or solacing their pains’. Such a soul had Thomas Walker.
How philanthropic was the soul of Thomas Walker and how much did he migrate into the lives of others? While some attention has been given to his life, there has been little work done on that for which he is principally remembered and for which he attracted glowing praise: his philanthropy. Thomas was born on May 3, 1804, the elder son of James Thomas Walker, merchant, and his wife Anne, née Walker, of Perth, Scotland. His birthplace is usually said to be at Leith, Scotland, and he was certainly baptised in the church at South Leith on July 29, 1804, nearly three months after his birth. According to his marriage certificate, which is unlikely to be incorrect as Thomas himself probably supplied the information, he was actually born in England. It would appear that at the time of his birth Thomas’ parents were resident there and later returned to Leith where Thomas was baptised.
Thomas came to Sydney in April 1822 on the Active when he was 18 years of age and brought some family capital with him as, on his arrival, he deposited £2000 in the Bank of New South Wales. He joined his uncle William’s business, Riley and Walker, and by 1829 was a partner with his uncle and Joseph Moore in the firm of William Walker and Co. Later, his younger brother Archibald, who had arrived in the colony in 1832, joined the partnership and both Thomas and Archibald remained as partners in the firm until 1843. Archibald returned to England, but Thomas remained in the colony and upon retiring from the company kept some of his capital invested with it. William Walker and Co had wide business interests as merchants, ship owners and pastoralists, and was a largely successful and profitable business which negotiated the uncertainties of colonial economic life and conditions. The depression of the 1840s was a particularly difficult time for the company and by 1849 Thomas had become insolvent. That he, by the time of his death, had the wealth he had was a remarkable achievement and business recovery which was assisted by the diversity of his financial interests. (more…)
The work of the Sydney Female Refuge Society (SFRS) was widely reported in the Sydney newspapers of the day, and a large number of its annual reports and minutes for the period 1860 to 1900 are still available. For these reasons, a close examination of its membership is possible and this throws light on the committee members’ social and religious relationships. This charity conformed to a common model among nineteenth century charities with a separate ‘ladies committee’ and a ‘gentlemen’s committee’ and it has been possible to establish their membership over this 40 year span during which time some 198 individuals (104 women and 94 men) served as members. While no-one over this period equalled the record of service of its secretary Ann Goodlet (the full 40 years for Ann and 39 years for her husband, John) others were involved for considerable lengths of time.
In order to ascertain and illustrate something of the relationships of committee members, those who served on the committee for ten or more years between 1860 and 1900 were researched for details of their background, age, religious affiliation and social standing. Some 63 individuals fell into this category, 37 women and 26 men. The task of identifying these individuals in order to understand who they were in colonial society was relatively easy in the case of the male members of the committee. They were invariably referred to with a Christian name or an initial in addition to their surname and this allowed identification. Identifying the female members proved rather more difficult.
During this period the women who served on the committee were all married, and in its reports the society followed the nineteenth century custom of simply referring to women members as ‘Mrs Robinson’ or ‘Mrs Jones’, usually without a Christian name or initial. Such a designation, apart from subsuming the women in their husband’s identity, made the women’s identification a difficult but not impossible task. Through a careful reading of contemporary literature on the SFRS, and noting dates of commencement and stoppage of service, together with knowledge of the groups of women who were involved in a wide range of charitable activities, it has been possible to identify these women (some of whom are pictured in this article with an indication of their years of service). Such identifications have been made with a high degree of confidence in their accuracy. It has also been possible to determine some personal details, background, social and economic standing, religious background and family connections for both the women and the men. (more…)
The Sydney Female Refuge Society (SFRS) is an important and major example of philanthropy which falls on at least three points of the philanthropic spectrum being philanthropy as improvement, as relief and as spiritual engagement (See What is Philanthropy?). The SFRS was formed on August 21, 1848, with the Motto ‘GO, AND SIN NO MORE’. Its formation, which was probably patterned on similar overseas institutions such as the Magdalene Society of Edinburgh, arose out of the concern
that some hundreds of unhappy females were crowding the streets and lanes of the populous city, the disgrace of their sex, the common pest of Society, and a reproach to the religion we profess, but which had not led us to attempt anything for their improvement.
The SFRS objectives were
the reclaiming of unfortunate and abandoned Females, by providing them with a place of Refuge in the first instance, and, after a period of probation, restoring them to their friends, or obtaining suitable employment for them.
The three aspects of this philanthropy are clearly seen in its objectives. Prostitutes and women who found themselves pregnant and abandoned were given a place of refuge (relief), restoration to friends, but importantly where at all possible also to God (spiritual), and they were also given employment such as washing and needlework, and positions with families found for them (improvement).
The labour of the residents of the refuge was rated according to market value. A small proportion was deducted as a weekly charge for board with the balance, contingent upon good conduct, being handed over to them on quitting the institution. In contrast to its Scottish equivalent, there was no uniform, but simple appropriate clothing was provided by the Institution as necessary. Nor did the SFRS, unlike its Scottish equivalent, shave the heads of the inmates to discourage absconding and the daily work schedule was less than the ten hours in the Scottish Asylums. Strict privacy was to be maintained with the names of the inmates not passing beyond the committee and the matron and not being divulged to anyone unless they had a legal right to know. The SFRS conformed to a common model among nineteenth century charities with a separate ‘ladies visiting committee’ and a ‘gentleman’s committee’ of management.
John Hay Goodlet was born in Leith, Scotland in 1835 the second son and one of eight children of George and Mary Goodlet (nee Hay). He was educated at the Edinburgh Institution for Languages and Mathematics. After he completed school he went to work for a time at the Edinburgh Roperie and Sailmaking Company in Leith.
In 1852, not yet seventeen years of age, he left Scotland for Melbourne Australia arriving in June of that year. He found employment as a clerk in the firm of some fellow Scots, Charles and John Smith who were timber merchants. Within a year he was a partner in the business. In June of 1855, possibly due to a depression in the commercial scene in Melbourne, he went to Sydney and commenced a timber yard and saw mill in Erskine Street in partnership with the Smiths which was known as JH Goodlet and Company. The business did well and by early 1859 the partnership had been dissolved and another entered into with James Smith, a brother of his former partners, and in late 1860 the name of the firm was changed to that of Goodlet and Smith.
In 1867 Goodlet and Smith expanded their interests and began producing bricks, pottery and earthenware in Riley Street, Sydney. In 1870 the site was expanded with state of the art labour saving machinery. By 1872 a Hoffman Annular Kiln had been installed and the works continued to produce earthenware until it was closed in 1915. In 1873 the Waterloo Brickworks were opened and operated until the mid 1890s. In 1884 Goodlet and Smith purchased the Junction Brick Works at Granville and later Goodlet showed his entrepreneurial attitudes by introducing the first successful colonial production of Marseille roof tiles. He also produced the first commercially viable high quality Portland cement at this site. All of Goodlet’s manufacturing activities were charactised by the use of up to date technology and labour saving devices. This enabled Goodlet to produce excellent products which sold well and produced good profits for the company.
Although Ann Alison Goodlet at her death attracted much praise for her charitable works, her kindness and loving concern, little appears to have been known about her background by either friends, acquaintances or admirers. Even the stained glass window that was erected in her honour at the Ashfield Presbyterian Church spelt her name incorrectly. It seems to have been a characteristic of Ann and John Goodlet that neither said much about themselves. Ann is the forgotten Mrs Goodlet for while Elizabeth Mary Goodlet (nee Forbes), the second wife of John, has received some notice, Ann has been overlooked.
According to her death certificate, the simple facts about Ann Alison Goodlet are that she was born in 1827, arrived in New South Wales (NSW) in 1855 and died on 3rd January 1903. The background of Ann is, however, somewhat more complicated for Ann Alison Goodlet, the daughter of William Panton and his wife Ann Jane (nee Kent), was actually born in 1822 shortly before William and Ann left Scotland for the colony of NSW. Their ship was the Andromeda and the Reverend John Dunmore Lang, who was on his first voyage to NSW, was also a passenger. Lang noted in his diary that (more…)
Jane Steel Walker nee Hart (1832-1870) wife of businessman and philanthropist Thomas Walker of Yaralla
There is little accurate information available on Jane Steel Walker nee Hart, the wife of businessman and philanthropist Thomas Walker of Yaralla. Our understanding of who Jane was is hampered by a lack of primary documentary evidence and by statements in secondary sources that are made about Jane, but which do not appear to be grounded in any primary source. Various writers have continued to uncritically quote these secondary sources which has compounded the confusion. The purpose of this short paper is to clarify what is actually known about Jane and her life.
Jane Hart’s birth
Lack of a birth certificate has led to speculation by researchers as to the age and identity of Jane. According to her gravestone, Jane Steel Hart was born in St Andrews, Scotland, on 2 July 1832. Her marriage certificate records that Jane Hart married Thomas Walker on 25 July 1860 at the Holy Trinity Church, Sydney. We are informed she was a spinster, that she was born in St Andrews, Scotland and that her usual place of residence was Woolloomooloo, Sydney.
On 18 September 1861, Jane gave birth to Eadith and her age was given as 30 and on her death certificate of 26 December 1870, her age was stated as 40 years. Her age at the time of marriage, which is information she most likely would have supplied, unlike the information from other documents, Jane is recorded as being 28 years of age; these age variations give approximately the same date and therefore are not significant. On this evidence her birthdate is in 1832, as stated on her gravestone.
In Summary: Jane Hart was born on 2 July 1832 at St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
Thomas Parker Reeve was born on May 6, 1824 at Deptford in Kent, England, to Isaac Reeve, a mathematics and classical scholar and teacher and his wife Elizabeth Parker. While living in Norwich, Thomas attended the St Mary’s Baptist Chapel where, aged 17, he was received into membership on December 1, 1841. He later recalled that:
in my youth while attending the ministry of the Rev W Brock of Norwich, my mind gradually opened to a sense of danger as a sinner, and of my need of a personal interest in the Great Atonement of Christ, but it was not till sometime after that I could realise a sense of God’s pardoning love.
Thomas married Lydia Pepperday (1825-1898), a Methodist, in 1848 at St Ives in Huntingdonshire, England. Having travelled in steerage aboard the Calphurnia, they arrived in the colony of NSW on September 17, 1853, with their two sons John (1849-1911) and George (1851-1951). Further children were born to them in the colony: Emma (1853-1863), Annie (1855-1943), Thomas (1857-1938), Lydia (1860-1946), Frederick (1861-1940), and Ada (1864-1867). The marriage was a happy one and on their 24th anniversary Thomas wrote ‘I think I can say we love each other more as we grow older and we are an [sic] happy yea, happier in all senses and I trust far nearer to God than we were years ago. I thank God for a good and affectionate wife’.
Thomas was a teacher like his father, but in November 1853 he set himself up in George Street, Sydney, as an importer and ironmonger. He sold goods ranging from shoes, galvanic pocket generators (which purported to remove pain) to a wide range of ironmongery which included saucepans, boilers, knives and forks. It was said he remained there until ‘aided by his good wife, he amassed a modest competency, and then retired to Stanmore to enjoy the fruit of his honest toil.’ It would seem that he moved to Cavendish Street, Petersham (later Stanmore), around June 1873, but continued working for some time probably retiring from active involvement in the business around 1880. By 1888, his son Thomas Henry had assumed control of the business as an ironmonger and organ importer.
On arrival in the colony, the Reeves immediately associated themselves with the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church and its activities. Thomas began his long association with the colonial
Christian education of children by becoming first Secretary and then Superintendent of the Hay Street Sunday school. By 1855, he had become General Secretary of the Wesleyan Sunday Schools of the South Sydney Circuit which embraced Chippendale, Hay Street, Glebe and Mt Lachlan. This was a position he held until 1873 and in this capacity he visited local Sunday schools and sought to improve the communication skills of the teachers. With his move to Petersham (Stanmore), he opened a Sunday School class in a cottage at Stanmore saying ‘I hope and pray that this may be the nucleus of a large and prosperous Sabbath School’ and he became Superintendent of the Stanmore Wesleyan Church Sunday School from 1875 until 1879. Something of his interest and zeal for the work is seen in a meeting he organised for the Rev William Taylor to address a group of Sunday School teachers. He did this because he was concerned that ‘the spiritual success in the way of conversions was not commensurate with the labour and zeal thrown into Sunday School teaching’. His interest in Sunday (more…)
Peter Garrett, a former Australian Federal Minister for School Education, puts Marion Maddox’s thesis in her book Taking God to School in this way:
The Australian settlement established early consensus on the question of government support for religious schools, namely that it was undesirable. Education that was ‘free, compulsory and secular’ was the foundation stone on which a school system should be built. Maddox applauds the guiding instincts of politicians of the day who determined that government should enable this education model, led as they were by fears of sectarianism and the isolation of specific religions if the state supported religious schools. They also expressed an ideal about the kind of nation they wanted Australia to become: a fair country where every child would be well educated, each bound to the other in the same setting, without the added complication of religious affiliation getting in the way.
The government of the colony of New South Wales under Henry Parkes certainly thought this way as did much of the population. The catch phrase used in the nineteenth century was ‘free, compulsory and secular’ and this slogan has been rejuvenated by the work of Maddox. While the argument of Maddox is worth weighing and given serious thought, and while Garrett’s review of her book begins to do this, there is a danger of misunderstanding the intentions of the nineteenth century discussion. In particular, there is the risk of believing that by the use of the word ‘secular’ the nineteenth century advocates of educational reform were seeking to eliminate religion from a state-funded school education system. Such a usage can been seen in Craig Campbell’s work ‘Free, compulsory and secular (more…)
The story goes that an English lad, brought up on the land on his father’s farm, was sent to town with a load of hay. This young horse and cart driver wasn’t looking where he was going and so he managed to tip the load into a ditch. His father said “George is no farmer and to the city he shall go”. So young George was sent to London and became a draper. The lad was George Williams who, with eleven of his fellow drapers, began an association in London on June 6, 1844. The association was the Young Men’s Christian Association – the YMCA. 
Over 70 years later, with the outbreak of WWI, this organisation would become an integral part of the war effort through sustaining the morale of young men who faced the greatest challenge of their lives, lives which in many, many cases were tragically cut short. Like the war itself, the story of the YMCA stretched over many continents and many countries where the war was fought and from where young men came. This paper, however, will focus on impact of the YMCA and its WWI effort in one sending area of Australia, the state of NSW.
The Founding of the Sydney YMCA
The YMCA had an uncertain start in the colony of NSW when in June 1853, a letter appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) encouraging the formation of a YMCA along the lines of that which existed in Great Britain and in Melbourne. In September 1853, the YMCA prospectus was published on the front page of the Sydney newspapers. It advised that the YMCA was to be under the Presidency of John Fairfax and with no less than 18 clerical vice presidents. Their presence was designed to indicate the support of the protestant Christian churches (there were no Catholic priests listed) and to show that the new organisation would be no threat to them. The motivation for forming the organisation was: (more…)
The Sydney Female Refuge Society (SRFS) was formed in Sydney on August 21, 1848, with the Motto ‘GO, AND SIN NO MORE’. Its formation, which was probably patterned on similar overseas institutions such as the Magdalene Society of Edinburgh, arose out of the concern
that some hundreds of unhappy females were crowding the streets and lanes of the populous city, the disgrace of their sex, the common pest of Society, and a reproach to the religion we profess, but which had not led us to attempt anything for their improvement.
The SFRS objectives were
the reclaiming of unfortunate and abandoned Females, by providing them with a place of Refuge in the first instance, and, after a period of probation, restoring them to their friends, or obtaining suitable employment for them.
The Society was governed by a Gentleman’s Committee which looked after the finances and buildings, and a separate Ladies Committee which took care of the day-to-day administration of the Refuge. On the advice of the Ladies Committee, the Society appointed a Matron who, in cooperation with the Ladies Committee, was to oversee the care and organisation of the women who were admitted to the Refuge. One such matron was Martha Trelawney Grace Malbon née Day. Martha Day was born in Bristol, England, on August 19, 1820, to Edward Elmsall Day, a Surgeon, and his wife Martha Martin. In 1851, Martha was 31 years old and the governess to three children of the widowed Mary Jane Clifton (née Malbon) in Bristol. Sometime after March 1851, Martha left England and came to the colony of NSW and on August 28, 1852, at St James’ Church King Street, Sydney, she married William Malbon, the uncle of her former students in England.
Martha’s husband William was the son of the distinguished Captain Micajah Malbon of the Royal Navy, and the Governor of the Stapleton Depot for French prisoners of war. William had arrived in the colony of NSW in 1850 and may have formerly been a soldier, and he seems to have had good social connections within the colony for he was the cousin of John Thompson, the Deputy Surveyor General.
William was involved in some capacity with the construction of the dry dock at Cockatoo Island, but was then employed in 1853 to oversee an unsuccessful attempt to sink a bore at Darlinghurst Gaol in order to supply Sydney with water. He became unwell and the project came to a standstill. Around 1856, William and Martha settled at Dapto, NSW, where William farmed on a property called Sunny Bank which was owned by the Rev Richard Allwood who was the minister of St James, King Street, Sydney. They remained at Sunny Bank until September 1861, after which time their whereabouts and activities are difficult to establish with any certainty. In July 1862, a William Malbon was appointed as acting Sub-Inspector of Police, later being appointed as a Sub-Inspector. As Malbon was not a common name in the colony this is probably Martha’s husband. He served at Eden and Moruya, Berrima and later in the Clarence region, and his time spent with the police ended in 1866 when his appointment was terminated. It appears that William’s efforts, which were said to be high-handed and alienating, were not well received by the communities he was called to serve. William resurfaced in 1870 having been appointed, upon the death of Thomas Smith, as Secretary of the Pyrmont Bridge Company. This appointment ceased when the Pyrmont Bridge was sold to the NSW Government in 1884.
William was an experimenter and inventor, but not one who succeeded commercially. In 1857, he was exhibiting examples of products made from Sorghum Saccharatum or Chinese sugar plant at the Agricultural and Horticultural Society (treacle, sugar and bran), and at the 1857 Dapto Agricultural Show he exhibited examples of colonial cochineal which he had produced. At the Illawarra Agricultural Show the following year, he produced a broom for sweeping which he had manufactured from the sorghum plant. In addition to this, he also exhibited lucerne, rye-grass and clover seeds, and some wine which was considered worthy of a special prize. Malbon showed himself to be innovative, spirited and skilful in such experiments and production, but does not seem to ever have produced anything of continuing commercial value. Later, he was to announce a breakthrough in producing fire-proof wood as well as a Non-Deviating Compass for Naval use. The value of both these ‘inventions’ was disputed at the time by others and again never seem to have produced any commercial return. While William’s position as Secretary of the Pyrmont Bridge Company would have produced some income it would seem that he was an experimenter and inventor at heart, but not a great financial provider and at his death in 1890, his estate was only valued at £226. Martha’s position as Matron of the Female Refuge would have been welcome as it would have provided her with extra income. She was initially paid around £65 per annum which increased to £100 per annum in 1875, and she was also given housing.
Martha was appointed Matron of the Sydney Female Refuge in March 1870. The previous matron, a Mrs Wait, had resigned and in early 1870 the committee was advertising for a replacement. The appointment was clearly in the hands of the Ladies Committee of the Refuge as applications were to be addressed to the (more…)
The Misses Bowie: Louisa (1834-1884), Jessie (1836-1906), Catherine (1838-1918), and Elizabeth (1840-1922); Isabella Brown (1858-1932), Fanny Owen-Smith (1859-1932) and Violet Paterson (1871-1948)
The Misses Bowie, Isabella Brown, Fanny Owen-Smith and Violet Paterson who taught in the Sydney Ragged Schools, are examples of the dedicated, female, vocational philanthropists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While they gave a lifetime of devoted service to the Ragged Schools, they have hardly left a mark on the historical record of the times. This was not because their work was insignificant, but because official reports and newspaper accounts of the day gave much more attention to the governance and financial philanthropists of the charity and gave little mention to those who did the actual work of the organisation. Because of this lack of attention, their work and contribution has largely gone unrecorded and uncommented upon, and the paucity of sources makes this difficult to adequately redress. (more…)
Catherine (Kate) Gent nee Danne (1835-1899), Teacher and Vocational Philanthropist
A ‘Mr and Miss Danne’ were involved in the Ragged Schools of Sydney as part of a philanthropic attempt to assist the children of the poorest to gain some education and improve their situation in life. They were what might be termed ‘vocational philanthropists’ for they did not give financial support, other than by forgoing more lucrative employment, nor did they serve as committee members overseeing the work. Rather, they were employed by the committee to interface with the poor, assisting the parents and teaching their children, and the level of Miss Danne’s commitment and sacrifice meant that this employment was her vocation. They were both associated with the Ragged School as teachers and Miss Danne was appointed to the paid staff in October 1860 to teach the girls and to support Henry B Lee, the one paid male teacher. With Lee’s departure around May 1861, a Mr Danne was appointed to replace him. His salary was 30 shillings per week, while with his appointment, the salary of Miss Danne was increased from 30 shillings to 40 shillings per week.
So who were ‘Mr and Miss Danne’ of the Ragged School? The answer to this question is not immediately apparent as contemporary accounts refer to them simply as ‘Mr and Miss Danne’. The Danne Family, consisting of William Danne (more…)
Henry Brougham Richard Lee (1831-1883) The City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen Manager
The name of Henry Brougham Richard Lee, abbreviated to H B Lee, became synonymous with the work of the Sydney City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen in the period 1868 to 1883. His great gift to the organisation was not just his ability to relate to the ‘down and out’ of the community, but his skill in convincing merchants and business people to donate goods and food stuffs to this philanthropic work.
Lee was born at Finsbury, England, on February 26, 1831, to a shoemaker named Thomas Lee and his wife, Sarah Beal, and he came to the colony of NSW on the Plantagenet, arriving in July 1853. In 1860, he married Harriet Miller (1833-1878) and they had four children: Florence Mary Ann (1861-1909), Eveline Maud (1863-1937), Grace Hannah (1865-1867) and Alfred Ernest (1869-1953). It appears that Henry ‘had the misfortune to be deformed and short of stature’, but this did not impede him as he was frequently described as being energetic and indefatigable. In England he had been apprenticed to a nautical instrument maker, and went into partnership with Thomas Drinkwater in 1854 after his arrival in Sydney. They operated as Drinkwater and Lee, engineers who specialised in brass fittings, but the partnership was short-lived and was dissolved in April 1856. This was to be the first of a number of such short-lived and unsuccessful business and professional positions in which Henry was involved.
In January of 1856, Lee published the first volume of The Australian Band of Hope Review and Children’s Friend which was a journal for the promotion of temperance. It was to be published fortnightly, cost three pence, and was to be a children’s magazine consisting of anecdotes, stories and poetry, and often promoting the temperance message. Over time, it changed its emphasis from children to a more general audience and changed its title to The Australian Home Companion, but it remained a temperance advocate. Whatever else the newspaper may have done, it had the distinction of being the first newspaper to publish a Henry Kendall poem in February 1859. The poem was entitled ‘Oh Tell Me Ye Breezes’ and was on the disappearance of Ludwig Leichhardt, the explorer. It is clear the newspaper was not a commercial success for as early as 1857, after only fourteen months of publication, it was in trouble as its circulation was just 1,000 copies. The paper was barely covering its expenses and attempts were made by the public to raise £100 to defray its expenses. By October 1859, the circulation had increased to 1,900 but the paper still struggled financially. Lee remained the proprietor until December 1860 when he was forced to sell the paper to cover his debts.
In 1860, Henry became the first teacher for the Sydney Ragged School, the school founded by Edward Joy. Joy had advertised for a special sort of teacher who was more than just a teacher of reading and writing, but also someone who ‘has a truly Christian interest in the welfare of the class of children for whom the school is intended and who has at the same time the gift of winning the attention and securing the affection of such children.’ Lee was engaged as a teacher and his (more…)
John Kent (1843-1916), Accountant and YMCA supporter
John Kent was born in 1843 in Hinton Waldrist, Berkshire, England, the son of John Kent, a farmer with some 435 acres and employing 15 labourers, and Jane Gee. John was the fourth child and the eldest son among seven children. Around 1860, John left the farm and at 17 was placed under a private commercial tutor for special training in accountancy and commerce, possibly in connection with the drapery business. After gaining experience in a solicitor’s office that specialised in bankruptcy, further work in private banking and then in a sales department of a warehouse in London, he decided on a commercial career in Australia.
Kent arrived in Sydney in 1863 and obtained a position with the drapers and silk merchants Francis Giles and Co and by September 1864, the company had been placed in the hands of administrators as its debts were twice its assets. This experience provided John with a personal understanding of company insolvency, and this proved very useful for his later business career which involved overseeing and administering such insolvencies. His employer’s business was bought by John Thompson and continued to trade under the name of Francis Giles and Co with Giles as manager. It is possible that Kent retained his job despite the difficulties, but may have left after a fire destroyed the business in 1867. Kent’s obituary says cryptically that after his time at Francis Giles and Co he spent some time in the country and then, after three years, ‘resumed his business career’. It is probable that he spent some time, at least up to 1869, as an ‘Episcopalian catechist’ in the Kurrajong/North Richmond area. During his time there he was involved in public controversy over the abandonment of denominational schools and the commencement of public ones. Kent was concerned that the public education system would not allow the scriptures to be taught within it, a concern he maintained throughout his life. On his return to Sydney he began work for W Gardiner and Co who ran a soft goods warehouse, a similar line of business to his former employers.
In 1871, John married Helen Clayton (nee Felton) (1828-1902), a widow with two daughters Elizabeth (1856-1916) and Catherine (1857-1913), and John and Helen had one son, Walter John (1872-1873), who died at eight months and three weeks. Initially living in Francis Street, Sydney (1871-1879), they began to move with the increasing success of John’s business. They moved first to Marlborough Street, Leichhardt (1880-1883), then to Marion Street, Leichhardt (1884-1897), followed by O’Hara Street, Marrickville (1898-1904) then, after Helen’s death, John moved to Union Street, North Sydney (1905-1910) followed by a final move to Cleveland Street, Wahroonga (1911-1916). At least from 1888, Kent also owned a country residence, farm and orchard of some 445 acres at Barber’s Creek, later known as Tallong. Here he planted apples with a view to exporting them to England which he did from 1892, for he correctly foresaw that England could become a major market for the export of Australian fruit.
David Walker (1839 -1915) Secretary of Sydney YMCA and vocational philanthropist
The YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) became in NSW in the last quarter of the nineteenth century a very significant youth organisation. Prior to this it was not always so successful and had for a long time struggled to exist. Its resurgence was due, humanly speaking, to David Walker.
David Walker, son of Samuel and Ellen Walker, was born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on November 8, 1839, and died in Sydney on January 20, 1915, aged 75. He had begun a clerical commercial life in Ireland but, attracted by the gold rush, he came to Australia in 1856 when he was seventeen. His brothers John (1826-1906), an engineer on the City of Sydney and William (1836-1916), an employee of the Commercial Bank, were already in Australia having arrived shortly before him. After the death of their father in 1866, their sister Rebecca (1847-1928) joined them in Sydney in 1867. David, although attracted to the colony of NSW by the gold rush, was to say
that ‘he found something better than gold’, a wife and a greater sphere of usefulness than he had ever contemplated. In 1865, David married Emily Jane Smalley and they had eight children: Edith Annie (1867-1950), Mary (1869-1930), David Edgar (1871-1948), Emily Gertrude (1873-1952), Robert Percy (1874-1951), Jessie Helen (1876-1950), Grace Millicent (1884-1965) and Eric John Kent (1887-1952). From at least 1870, they made their family home in the Petersham Marrickville area, only moving to Killara in 1905.
It was said that David entered the firm of Barnett and Hinton, wine and spirit merchants, as a junior clerk and became chief book keeper and confidential clerk after 21 years of service, then continued to work as an accountant for the firm until 1878. This narrative implies a stable and steady progression of continuous service with one company, but this is a colourless and misleading account of his commercial life. In fact he worked for a succession of firms, all of which were in the business of wholesale grocery and wine and spirit distribution, and it is clear that being a wholesale grocer in nineteenth century NSW was a difficult and challenging business, as demonstrated by the numerous insolvencies and dissolutions of partnerships that occurred. David was fortunate, however, for through each crisis he was given employment by the succeeding partnership. He seems to have commenced his commercial life with JV Barnard and Co, wholesale grocers and wine and spirit merchants which had been formed in 1854. In 1860, the business became insolvent and was dissolved, and Barnard then formed a partnership with Alfred Haydon to form Haydon and Co which was renamed Alfred Haydon and Co. This particular partnership was dissolved in 1865, but the company continued under its name until there was an amalgamation with Watkins and Leigh, and Barnard and Burrows was formed in 1866. In 1872, this partnership was dissolved and Barnard and Hinton was formed. By 1877, due to difficult financial conditions in country NSW, Barnard and Hinton found themselves with many clients who could not meet their financial obligations and trade was slack. This forced the company into liquidation and administration, paying only ten shillings in the pound to its debtors. In January 1878, Hinton purchased the residual of the business and resumed trading under the name of Hinton and Co, Wine and Spirit Merchants and Importers. Over this time and throughout all these commercial upheavals, David maintained his employment with each succeeding partnership which demonstrates that he must have been a vital and well-regarded employee.
It was in 1877 that Walker was presented with a requisition, signed by 420 people, to consider the full-time role of General Secretary of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). This was not the first time he had been (more…)
Sharp Hutchinson Lewis (1830-1921), Glover and an early Secretary of the YMCA Sydney
Sharp (Sharpe) Hutchinson Lewis was born in 1830 at Ramsgate, Kent, England, the son of John Lewis and Ann Hutchinson and died September 6, 1921, at Petersham, Sydney, Australia. In 1858, he married Mary Morshead Gypson and together they had five children: Mary Ann (1859-1937), William Arthur (1861-1955), Mortimer Kent (1866-1867), Agnes Fanny (1868-1941) and Lillian Eleanor (1870-1932). Before his marriage, Sharp was employed as a Clerk with the London house of the Sydney firm of David Jones and Co in Fenchurch Street when it was decided he should go to NSW to join the company’s staff in Sydney.
Lewis arrived in Sydney in 1854 and went to work with David Jones and Co as planned. In January 1857, Jules Pillet, a highly successful glover at 10 Hunter Street, advertised that he wished to retire and was willing to dispose of his business, The French Glove Depot, with a lease of his premises for six years. On January 1, 1858, Sharp took over the business which, despite some early financial difficulties, he ran successfully for some 16 years. The shop was considered ‘a very fashionable place’ and was just opposite where Henry Parkes had his shop. Sharp said of Parkes that ‘many a chat I used to enjoy with him in those days. He was a clever fellow’. In 1861, Sharp opened a
branch in Brisbane advising his customers that he had made arrangements with his predecessor, Jules Pillet, to select the stock which covered a wide range of quality goods from gloves and umbrellas to haberdashery in Paris and London, ensuring thereby that ‘nothing would be lacking in taste and quality’. He finally disposed of the business to his sister Frances Johnson (nee Lewis) and his assistant Edward Carroll in March 1874.
Lewis later accepted an invitation from James Woodward to return to the firm of David Jones, but he did not remain long with his old employer for in 1879 he sold the family home ‘Kentville’ in Petersham for £1,100 and went, it was said, on an extended trip to England. But this information is incorrect as he, his wife and three of his children, went to live in Dunedin, New Zealand, where he worked for Hallenstein Bros and Co at the New Zealand Clothing Factory as an Inspector of Branches. During his time in Dunedin, he involved himself in the local YMCA as a committee member and also became the secretary of a company to set up a Coffee Palace which sought to ‘combine all the advantages of (more…)
The Commencement of the Young Men’s Christian Association, Sydney (YMCA)
In June 1853, a letter appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) encouraging the formation of a YMCA along the lines of that which existed in Great Britain and in Melbourne. This was the first intimation that plans were afoot to commence such a work in Sydney. It seems likely that this anonymous letter was the product of conversations between Samuel Goold, John Mills and John Joseph Davies about the importance of forming a branch of the YMCA in Sydney. In July 1853 and through an advertisement, Samuel Goold sought a copy of the rules and regulations of the YMCA of Great Britain because a similar organisation was soon to be formed in Sydney. The first meeting of the Association was chaired by Goold and was held at his house on the corner of Pitt and King Streets and it continued at this venue for some time. The YMCA prospectus was published on the front page of the SMH in September of 1853 under the Presidency of John Fairfax and with no less than 18 clerical vice presidents. Their presence was designed to indicate the support of the protestant Christian churches and to show that the new organisation would be no threat to them. The treasurer was James Comrie, John J Davies was the secretary and it had a committee of fifteen. The motivation for forming the organisation was
the great want observed to exist here by many persons who are anxious for the moral and intellectual advancement of this country and felt especially by young men who earnestly desire to keep pace with the march of the mind in our Fatherland, seems to be the absence of those helps and guides, and means of improvement, which seek an apparatus as the present Association is calculated to afford.
The organisation was officially inaugurated in Sydney, with its first public meeting on October 5, 1853, and with a lecture given by the Rev George King. It was the arrival of Sharp Hutchinson Lewis and his appointment as Secretary that proved to be critical to the survival of the YMCA at this stage of its life. In London and (more…)
Charles Nightingale (1795-1860), Edward Ramsay (1818-1894) and James Druce (1829-1891) Charity Collectors
Obtaining funding for the work of the various nineteenth century philanthropic organisations was always a challenge. There was little government financial assistance available, and the various organisations were dependent upon the generosity of the public for financial support. In order to gain that support the many charities who wished to collect money from the public engaged in a number of activities and strategies. Prominent among their activities was the public annual meeting, often chaired by a socially important person, where the activities of the organisation were reported and supportive resolutions passed. At the meeting someone, usually the secretary of the committee, would read a report detailing what had been achieved in the year past, often giving encouraging examples of success as well as underlining the difficulty of the task which the charity had undertaken. Such reporting made the committee that ran the charity accountable to the public and to its subscribers. It also showed what had been achieved through public financial support, educated the community on the continuing need for the charity, and gave hope for success in the future so that there might be continued interest and increased financial support given by individuals.
Nineteenth century newspaper editors, at least up until the 1890s, gave very sympathetic treatment to such organisations and often printed extensive reports of the meetings which gave further publicity. Printing the annual reports of these organisations and circulating them to their subscribers was also a vital part of the strategy. Such documents contained the secretary’s report, a financial statement, the lists of subscribers and the amount of their subscription, and newspapers often printed subscriber and donation lists as well. It has been suggested that the existence of these subscriber lists is evidence that nineteenth century philanthropy was a morally approved way of self-aggrandisement. Motives are difficult to determine and it may well be that, for some, giving was motived by being seen to have done the ‘right societal thing’ or by a desire to gain praise for the size of a donation. For others, however, such support was undoubtedly a response to need and a desire to help without any ulterior motive. From the organisations’ point of view, it was an effective means of giving a receipt and perhaps a means of encouraging (more…)
Joseph Paxton (1828-1882) Miner, Musician, Philanthropist and Churchman
Joseph Paxton was, to a remarkable degree, both a financial and a governance philanthropist. He was born on 10 May 1828 at Dunbar, Scotland, to James a journeyman boot maker and Margaret (nee Greig) Paxton. Though a brass founder by trade Joseph was a gifted singer and musician and he taught music and also led the singing in one of the Edinburgh churches for some six years. He married Elizabeth Bennett in 1853 and they left for the colony of NSW arriving in Sydney in early 1854. Their daughter Margaret born in 1854 died in 1855 but two further children, James Alexander (1856) and Elizabeth Bennett (1860) were born to the family at Tambaroora (Hill End).
Initially Paxton earned a living in Sydney by giving performances of Scottish Songs and he also toured giving concerts in the Hunter Valley. His singing was appreciated and was compared in style to the famous Scots singers Wilson and Templeton with ‘interest being sustained by anecdotes and explanatory remarks illustrative of the songs’. It would appear that Joseph, as an entertainer, was comfortable being a public figure and throughout his life was willing to express his opinions on various subjects. These public skills and attitudes would later lead him to often be chosen to chair public meetings of various organisations.
The Gold Miner
In late 1854 the family left for the Gold Diggings on the Turon River in NSW where Paxton took up a miner’s right on Hawkin’s Hill at Hill End. By 1866, Paxton entered a partnership with William Holman and some others to form Paxton, Holman and Co whose purpose was to mine a claim on Hawkins Hill. There were some 32 men employed on the site working both day and night and probably six days a week and after thirteen months of extremely hard work the first ore was crushed in March 1869. In the period June 1870-May 1871 the mine was producing some £16,000 (approximately $2 million current value) worth of gold and the value of the area was shown when, in 1872, one nugget was found which on its own was worth £16,000. Paxton was involved in numerous other mining ventures and partnerships at Hill End as mining required considerable capital to exploit the deposits. There were 255 Companies on the Hill End goldfield in 1872-1873 and they had a combined nominal capital of £3,673,937 of which Paxton’s company was the biggest by far with a nominal capital of £160,000. As a miner and mine owner, Paxton was concerned for the safety of mining and was part of a deputation to the Minister for Lands to seek the appointment of a mines inspector for gold mines. He said that many accidents which had taken place on the gold-fields were due in many instances to the incompetency and utter ignorance of men appointed by boards of directors as mine managers. He had no patience with those mine owners and companies that cited cost as a deterrence to the appointment of a mines inspector for such miners who were under capitalised had no right to exist if they did not have the funds to protect the lives of their men. He thought that by such an appointment the Government might incur the displeasure of some but would at the same time earn the gratitude of thousands of miners. (more…)
Edward Joy (1816-1898) Pastoralist and Ragged School Philanthropist
Edward Joy was born on 18 June 1816 in Leeds, England, the second son of William Thomas Outhwaite Joy (1785-1855) and his wife Harriet Glover. William, who had been an apprentice and journeyman with Mr Medley, a Leeds Chemist, Druggist and Oil Man, set up business on his own as a seed and oil merchant in 1807. Later, William entered into partnership with his brother Edward, after whom his son was named, and operated the Thwaite Mills near Leeds in a partnership that was eventually dissolved in 1844. William and Edward then each formed a partnership with their own sons. Unlike his family, Edward Junior, as he was known in Leeds to distinguish him from his very prominent uncle, did not remain in the seed and oil business, but became the manager of the New Leeds Gas Company in 1841. In 1843, Edward’s older brother William married Mary Holt and in 1851, Edward married Mary’s sister Eliza. The Joy and Holt families were thus closely linked in an association that Edward would continue in the colony of New South Wales (NSW) through his business partnerships with Thomas Holt, his brother-in-law.
In 1853, Edward and Eliza set sail for the colony of NSW as first class cabin passengers on the Walmer Castle and arrived in Sydney on 12 September 1853. Edward soon set up business in Sydney, utilising his Holt family connections by forming a partnership with George Stranger Leathes, trading as Joy and Leathes, for the purchase of wool for consignments for Lovegrove and Leathes of London and Holt Brothers of Leeds. By 1856, this partnership was dissolved and Edward formed Joy and Company with Andrew Hinchcliff, a partnership which also purchased wool and exported it to England. In 1862, the company was dissolved, but Joy continued to send wool to England on his own account. Joy was also concerned with wool production and entered into several partnerships with Thomas Holt and others in the purchase of leases at Salisbury Plains in the Kennedy District, north of Rockhampton in Queensland. In 1864, in a decision that would materially affect the course of his life Edward, together with Thomas Holt, advanced money to a lessee on Wealwandangie, a property in Queensland. The years 1866-1871 were years of serious depression in the industry with a drought being experienced in 1868, followed by floods in 1869. The partnership with Holt had ended by 1870 after a dispute over Joy’s exercise of power of attorney while his brother-in-law was absent in England during 1866-1868. This matter was the subject of litigation between Holt and Joy and, although it was eventually settled by mediation, it must have soured family relationships. The end result was that Joy sold his share to Holt in 1870 for some £24,000 (in excess of $3 million current value) and then returned to England.
While Joy was to spend only 20 years in the colony, during which time he acquired a modest fortune, he was to make a significant philanthropic contribution to NSW by his championing the cause of the Ragged School movement. Edward and Eliza do not appear to have had any children of their own and they did not have any (more…)
William Crane, (1826-1914) Magistrate and Governance Philanthropist
William Crane was born on October 5, 1826, at Castlereagh Street, Sydney. He was the son of William Christopher Crane (1799-1876) a publican who was the landlord of the Leather Bottle Inn in Castlereagh Street and Sarah McAvoy (1802-1857). He was educated at the Sydney College under the headmastership of William Timothy Cape and his fellow students included Sir James Martin, William Bede Daley, Sir Henry Stephen and Thomas Alexander Browne (aka Rolf Boldrewood). In his youth William was a keen sportsman. He was a cricketer and active member of the Newtown Cricket Club from its formation in 1858, a boxer, and a strong swimmer, frequently swimming the considerable distance from The Fig Tree, Woolloomooloo, to Garden Island and back.
In the 1850s, Crane and a number of companions went to the Ophir and Turon goldfields where he appears to have been unsuccessful in his gold prospecting unlike his younger brother, Christopher, who struck it rich at Gulgong. He returned to Sydney and became a law clerk in the law practice of solicitor Joseph Frey Josephson  after which, in 1853, he entered the New South Wales civil service as a clerk in the Department of Police. He was appointed clerk of Petty Sessions, Water Police in 1861, a magistrate of the colony in 1869, and then in 1875 Clerk of Petty Sessions in the Central Police court. In 1882, Crane was appointed one of Sydney’s first stipendiary magistrates and officiated at the Central Court until his retirement in 1885. He was highly regarded and an able magistrate as illustrated by, for the time, an unusual occurrence in his court when a young man stepped into the witness box, and when the Bible was tendered, shut the book. Said Mr Crane to him: “Why did you shut the book?” He said: “I am a Liberal or Freethinker.” He further stated he had no belief in the Bible, and there was nothing binding on his conscience, and he objected to take an oath. This at first seemed rather puzzling and brought the proceedings to a sudden standstill.
James Start Harrison (1837-1902) Accountant and Governance Philanthropist
At his death it was said of James Start Harrison that
many benevolent and philanthropic institutions that today are in a flourishing state owe their existence to his energies and valued labours.
The nineteenth century saw the development of many important community services which were commenced and conducted by interested individuals and financially supported by the community. Harrison is an example of one of the many citizens of New South Wales (NSW) whose names have largely been forgotten but who gave voluntarily of their time and effort in the governance of various charitable organisations in order help those in need. As with so many such citizens his commitment arose out of his Christian faith which found its expression in using his gifts and abilities to help others.
James Start Harrison was born in London in 1837 the youngest son of Layman Harrison (1799-1882) and Honor Pitt Curtis (1796-1860). In January 1849, Layman and Honor and their family of six children arrived in Sydney after a voyage of 157 days on board the Penyard Park. After living for a short time in Glebe, the family took up residence in Abercrombie Street, Chippendale. In 1866 James, aged twenty-nine, married Angelina (nee Macdonald), aged thirty-nine and the wealthy widow of Thomas Cooper whom she married in 1852, and prior to that the widow of Edward Henry Gregory whom she had married in 1847. In 1868, Angelina gave birth to her only child, a stillborn daughter, and Angelina herself died in 1873. Her striking death notice testifies to the relationship of Angelina and James and of their shared Christian faith (more…)
Isabella Price (1830 – 1920) Consumptive Hospital Matron
Isabella Price is an example of one of the many Christian women whose contribution to NSW society and to the ministry of the Christian Church has gone unrecorded and unacknowledged. Her work was largely unrecognised in her own day and what recognition was given to her area of service was overshadowed by others.
Isabella Price was the matron of the Goodlet Consumptive Home from its opening in September 1877 until July 1894. This Home was a private charity set up, funded and run by the Scottish born Sydney merchant, manufacturer, philanthropist and churchman John Hay Goodlet. John and Ann Goodlet began the Home in a leased former hotel at Picton in September of 1877 and it could cater for 18 patients. Both males and females were admitted and the only requirement for admission was that the persons were poor and consumptive. Such was the demand for places in the Goodlet Home that in 1884 the Goodlets began to plan a purpose built facility at Thirlmere which could cater for 40 patients again at no cost to those admitted. It was opened in September 1886. The construction cost of the home was fully met by the generosity of the Goodlets. They did not spare any expenditure on either the construction of the Home or in its recurrent costs and they even paid for the burials of the many who died there. In the period 1877 to 1893 when the Goodlets ran the hospital some 940 patients were admitted with 233 patients dying within the facility.
It was of this facility that Isabella Price was the matron. Little is known of Isabella Price other than that her work was highly esteemed by the Goodlets and the patients. Isabella was born in 1830 in Barrackpore, Calcutta India to Andrew and Elizabeth Marr (nee Peters). Her father was the Park Superintendent at Barrackpore and died before she was one and her mother died when she was seven. Her mother must have had a difficult life, being first married in 1821 (Daniel Desmond) and again in 1824 (George Dougherty) and then to Isabella’s father in 1825. On the death of Andrew Marr in 1831 she then married again in 1832 (John Gash) and she herself died in 1838. When Isabella was 14 she and her step sister were orphaned through her step father’s death in 1844. It is unknown what happen to Isabella but her step sister was consigned to the European Female Orphans Asylum where she died two years later. Thus at the age of 16 Isabella was left with no family.
Elizabeth Mary Goodlet nee Forbes (1854 – 1926) Missions activist and Presbyterian.
Elizabeth Mary Forbes was born in Singleton, New South Wales, on the 15th of October 1854 to Alexander Leith Forbes and Jean (nee Clark). The Forbes family were of Free Presbyterian background and while Alexander was ordained at Methlick Free Church, he resigned in 1852 just prior to coming to Australia. When he and his wife Jane arrived in Sydney on ‘The Boomer’ in July 1853, he commenced a new life as a school master.
Alexander Forbes was conservative in theology, a strong-minded and honest man, fearless and straightforward and outspoken to friends and foes alike, but he was not a ‘people person’ which may explain why he did not persist in the ordained ministry. John Walker, who knew Alexander well, described him as
a man of competent knowledge and strict integrity, with a warm heart. As a friend, he was as true as steel, and hospitable to a degree. Those who did not know Mr Forbes were often misled by his manner; but those who knew him best, loved and trusted him most.
By contrast, his wife Jean Forbes (born April 1, 1827 and dying April 3, 1889), was modest, shrinking and unobtrusive in disposition with a faith that delighted in the ‘old paths’, in the Sabbath and the Bible. She had been the one who was the homemaker of the Forbes household, finding satisfaction in the domestic sphere and in hospitality. Elizabeth Mary was effectively an only child as a brother had died in infancy. In character and opportunity she was much more like her father than her mother, and her mother’s commitment to the domestic sphere permitted Elizabeth to pursue her own Christian interests. In 1877, the Forbes family moved to King Street, Ashfield, and joined the newly formed Ashfield Presbyterian Church December 4, 1877.
In a church such as Ashfield where John Hay and Ann Alison Goodlet were prominent, the Forbes and the Goodlet families had many interactions. The connections between the families were ones of faith, church, Scottish origins, common ministry and ideals. In particular, by 1883, ‘Bessie’ Forbes was teaching Sunday School where John Goodlet had been the superintendent since 1877 and she was the Sustentation Collector in the district which included the Goodlet family. The Goodlets and the Forbes were both involved in the YWCA, local political activity, temperance organisations, the Ministering Children’s League, the Women’s Missionary Association, the Band of Mercy as well as the Trusteeship of the Ashfield Church property. (more…)
Frederick Ropier Robinson (1815-1899) Ironmonger and for 38 years a member of Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution
Ellis Frederick Leathwick Robinson (1839-1905) for 41 years Secretary of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution
Frederick and Ellis Robinson were both devoted members of the governing committee of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution for nearly forty years from its founding and into the twentieth century. Their tireless work helped provide invaluable assistance in the commencement, maintenance and growth of an organisation that was to become the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC). The story of the Robinson family in Australia begins with Thomas Leathwick Robinson, Frederick’s father and Elllis’ grandfather. It is his life and his descendants’ success in business that forms the backdrop that enabled Frederick and Ellis to contribute philanthropically to the RIDBC.
According to the narrative supplied to the author of the 1888 article on FR Robinson in Australian Men of Mark, Robinson arrived in the colony of NSW in the early part 1829 with his parents who were ‘determined to come to Australia in order to enable them to better their fortunes in that distant and little known land’. This account of his arrival was less than candid and was aimed more at protecting the respectability that the Robison family had attained rather than giving an accurate account of his origins in NSW. The arrival of the Robinson family in NSW was in fact, as with so many, due to a conviction at the Old Bailey. Thomas Leathwick Robinson was convicted of selling four silver bottle labels with forged and counterfeit hall-marks. He had, as a silversmith, also forged these silver hallmarks but because he provided information that was helpful to His Majesty’s Stamp Office this second charge was dropped. He was 40 years of age and was sentenced to fourteen years transportation arriving in Hobart on board the Competitor on August 2, 1823. He must have been an educated man as he was employed, in 1824, as a school master using the Madras system at the Public School, Campbelltown NSW. He gained his ticket of leave for the Airds area south of Sydney on December 29, 1829 and his certificate of freedom in 1836. Thomas was followed to NSW five years after his transportation by his wife Mary Jane and their three children, Susannah, Lucy and Frederick who arrived in Sydney in December, 1828 on the Borneo. The family lived together at Campbelltown and Mrs Robinson from 1829, as was common for the master’s wife, assisted in the teaching of needlework. For this work Thomas was paid £40pa and Mary £10pa. After 1838 he acquired leases in the Maneroo area adjacent to the Snowy River and ran stock on these pastures, eventually taking up residence in the Eden Monaro area where he died in 1864 at the age of 85.
Thomas’ son Frederick Ropier Robinson did not go on the land with his father but after spending two years on the dairy farm of a relative went to Sydney where he ‘acquired a full and complete knowledge of working in metals’. Aged 23 in 1838 he married Caroline Jemima Phillips (1814-1891) and went into business in Sydney in October of that year as a Tin–Plate worker producing dish covers and various articles. The business did well and diversified from its simple beginnings and within nine years was offering to the public, though manufacture or importation, brass lamps, bell and flat weights, pumps, chemical and scientific apparatus, shower baths, wine warmers, binnacles for ships and various other items of manufactured ironmongery. After ten years in business Robinson reminded customers that the business could manufacture every article in the various branches of Tin, Iron, Brass and Japan Ware which indicated that Robinson, in order to remain profitable, had expanded into the manufacture and distribution of a wide range of products to meet the increasing aspirations of colony of NSW. He also advertised his business as licensed plumbers and gas fitters which was an essential service required by customers of their manufactured products. From 1884 to 1895 he was the Marine Board’s Inspector of Lights which required him to periodically visit light houses up and down the NSW coast to check and repair lighthouses and pilot lights.
Ellis was made a partner in 1876 and the firm’s name changed to FR Robinson and Son. The business closed its’ shop front to concentrate on importation and manufacturing and while they produced a wide range of goods they began to concentrate on the production and importation of stoves, both domestic and commercial, cooking and heating, gas or coal or wood. Around this time the firm was employing some 24 hands and as a manufacturer and importer Robinson was very interested in the current issue of free trade vs protectionism. Frederick was a free trader and was confident that his business could compete without the benefit of tariff protection saying of protectionism that ‘it is the gain of the few by the robbery of the many’. By 1879 the other sons were admitted as partners, though Frederick no doubt maintained effective control, and the business became FR Robinson and Sons. In 1885 due to the increased prosperity of the business, land was purchased and new and larger premises were constructed in Castlereagh Street which then became the centre of the business. (more…)
Thomas Pattison (1805-1899) Coach Painter and Founder of the Deaf and Dumb Institute, Sydney
While others discussed the need for a school for the education of deaf children in NSW it was Thomas Pattison who took the initiative and opened in Sydney on October 22, 1860 what was to become a successful organisation. Apart from his brief time founding and teaching for 6 years at what was initially called the Deaf and Dumb Institution (DDI) and was later to become the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) little is known about his life. This paper seeks to fill out some background and detail of Thomas Pattison’s life.
Pattison’s background and schooling
Pattison was born in Edinburgh on January 5, 1805 the second son and the fourth child of Thomas Pattison, a weaver and Elisabeth Lorn. As an adult, Pattison was reported as being 5’ 6” tall and deaf, either from birth  or from early childhood. He went to school at the Edinburgh Deaf and Dumb Institution (EDDI) spending time there under the instruction of Robert Kinniburgh with class mates such as Alexander Drysdale and Joseph Turner who were later to have significant roles in the development of the education of the deaf in Scotland.
The amount of experience as a teacher that Pattison had before he came to NSW is unclear. A report at the end of the first year of operation of the DDI, said that Pattison ‘was an experienced teacher, who passed twenty three years of his life in the Edinburgh Deaf and Dumb school, as an assistant teacher’. Another secondary source says that he had been educated at the Edinburgh Institution for the Deaf and that ‘he seems to have been a pupil for five years and then a “monitor” for two more years, leaving in 1820’. As Pattison was fifteen in 1820 this would give a commencement date of his schooling as 1813 when he was 8 years of age. This view is supported by Walter who says that he was dismissed (i.e. finished his schooling)
in 1818, but he was still listed in the printed Annual Reports as a ‘Pupil under Tuition’ until 1820. Pupils were sometimes retained for monitorial duties, and Pattison carried out such duties between 1818 and 1820.
Pattison himself, in his advertisements to set up his school in Sydney described himself only as ‘late Secretary and Treasurer of the Edinburgh Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Society’ (EDDBS) and gives no indication as to any service as a teacher of the deaf. The only claim he ever made, apart from that of having been ‘founder and for six years Head Master of the Deaf and Dumb Institution, Pitt-street, Sydney’ is his association with the EDDBS.
The EDDBS was a benevolent organisation formed on November 16, 1835 and existed ‘for relieving deaf and dumb persons when in distress; and supporting such indigent individuals among them as are, from age or infirmity, unable to earn a livelihood.’ Pattison was on the Committee of the EDDBS and its Secretary/ Treasurer for twenty three years from 1835 until 1858. When in NSW, Pattison produced a booklet of his references and the only significant comment on his (more…)
Mary Roberts nee Muckle (1804-1885), Property holder, Philanthropist and Publican.
Jane Muckle (1784-1834), who was the mother of Mary Roberts (nee Muckle), arrived in New South Wales on the Nile in December 1801 as an unmarried 17 year old convict. Some sources record that she had been convicted at Cork in August, 1796, and sentenced to 7 years servitude in the colony of NSW, but other accounts date her conviction as July, 1799, at Durham. On 25 June, 1804, Mary was born to Jane and the father was registered as a Thomas Rowley. There is no evidence that Jane and Thomas were married and nothing further is heard about him. Jane took the designation of Mrs Muckle and retained it until she married some twenty-two years later.
In July, 1806, Jane became a free person as she had completed her sentence and was recorded as living with Archibald McKillup. By 1810, Jane had obtained a ‘Beer License’ for an establishment in Phillip Street and while no longer holding a licence by 1825, she was still involved in the running of a public house with Archibald, probably the “Lord Nelson” in Phillip Street. Jane was experiencing financial success for in June 1823 she gained five 21 year leases on land in Phillip, Hunter and Elizabeth streets and in 1824 was able to make an interest free loan of £300 to Rev John Dunmore Lang for Scots Church. On 6 March, 1826, she married Archibald  and she died eight years later on April 12, 1834. Archibald’s death followed the next year on October 26, 1835, by which time Jane’s daughter Mary Muckle was running the public house. On Archibald’s death the Tavern’s fixtures were disposed of but Mary continued to own the tavern, which was leased to others, right up until her death some 50 years later.
Little is known of Mary’s early life. She became the heiress of extensive property holdings and was the object of some unwanted attention by suitors, one such proclaiming to her that ‘she had remained long enough unmarried, and could not do better than have him’. Mary’s stepfather was ill at this time and she informed the would-be-suitor ‘that her father was seriously unwell, and was disturbed by his loud talk, and begged him to drink his liquor and depart from the house, but which only served to induce him to continue his familiarity’. She, in response to this unwanted attention, gave ‘a becoming and spirited resistance’ resulting in the ardent would-be-suitor only becoming more aggressive and ‘calling her a _________ and using opprobrious and obscene expressions’. Mary then threw a jug of boiling water at him, the suitor was injured, and brought a charge of assault and battery against her. The jury found the case proven, but it would seem they thought the suitor deserved his fate for Mary only had to pay damages of a farthing. (more…)
Samuel Watson (1842-1911) Superintendent Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution, Sydney.
As early as March 1853 in colonial New South Wales attempts were made to commence education classes for deaf children. These efforts met with limited success and were short-lived until Thomas Pattison commenced his classes in October 1860. This developed into what became known as the Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution (DDBI), later to be known as the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children. The first decade of the DDBI was beset with difficulties as the organising committee sought to find a suitable person to lead the work and it was not until Samuel Watson was appointed in 1870 that the education of the deaf and blind began to thrive.
Life in Ulster
Samuel Watson was born in Glenhue, Ahoghill, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on December 22, 1842, the fourth and youngest son of the eight children of William Watson a farmer, and his wife Jane McMaster. By 1857, both of his parents had died and the eldest son James (1827-1878) had assumed the role of head of the family. In May 1861, aged 18, Samuel was employed by the Ulster Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind, as an assistant teacher and he remained in this position for seven and a half years until 1868. In this period of service he would, he said, ‘learn the art of teaching Deaf mutes and whatever power as well as impulses for good I have acquired.’ Samuel was well regarded by the Institution being considered by its Principal, the Rev John Kinghan, as ‘a young man of much amiable temper, good sense and good feeling, imbued with a sincere desire to Glorify God.’ In January of 1869, upon being recommended by Kinghan for the post, he commenced as a Teacher and Manager of the Church of Ireland Derry and Raphoe School for the Deaf and Dumb.
This institution, founded in 1846 in Strabane, was supported both personally and financially by the hymn writer Cecil Frances Alexander, the wife of the local minister. The proceeds of some of her hymns, such as ‘There is a green hill far away’ and ‘All Things bright and beautiful’, contained in her publication Hymns for Little Children, went to the support of the institution. Samuel was highly regarded by the Derry and Raphoe School, though he only served 18 months as its master apparently seeing that he would have greater opportunities and financial security in the colony of NSW. (more…)
George Augustus Frederick Lentz (1797-1883) Convict conman, Architect and co-founder of the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Sydney
Thomas Pattison is rightly credited with commencing a work that was to become the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC). George Augustus Frederick Lentz and his family, however, assisted Pattison in starting this work and their contribution, though of short duration, was significant. George was born to John and Elizabeth Lentz in London in 1797 and he became a musical instrument maker, a harpist and also played in a band. He kept up his musical activities all of his life and was thought by his family to have been a good musician having received a gold watch from King George IV for ‘his performances before him’. From George’s history, if he had a gold watch from his time in England, he most likely stole it for George was a thief and a conman.
At the age of 17 George Lentz, alias George Henry Douglas, was convicted at the Old Bailey in January, 1814, of the theft of a ‘silver watch and gold chain’ worth £4 and of forgery worth £138 in order to purchase a dressing case and gold scissars (sic) and other items. A newspaper recorded that Lentz
was taken into custody, at the Swan Inn, Knightsbridge, on his return in a gig, with a Lady – to the Lady (a woman of property) he had given the gold scissars, and she in return gave him as the old song says, “a far better thing,” it was “The ring from off her finger, Oh!”
The combined value of George’s fraudulent activity was a considerable sum for the time and he was found guilty and sentenced to hang, a sentence which was commuted to transportation for life to the colony of NSW. George arrived in Sydney on April 25, 1815, aboard the Indefatigable 2 and was sent to work for James Smith, a builder, at Parramatta. This appears to have been a stroke of good fortune for George as Smith taught him to be a carpenter and joiner. He worked with Smith for at least five years and was described by him as one who was ‘obedient to my order and his conduct was that of a sober and honest and industrious man’. In 1823, he was granted a Ticket of Leave for the district of Parramatta. The ticket was revoked in October 1826, however, as George was found in possession of a chisel, the property of William Clay, which had been stolen with other articles from the premises of Dr Dalhunty at Burwood. A further Ticket of Leave was granted in August 1827, and a conditional pardon was granted in September 1836. During this period George had worked on various building jobs earning praise for his work ‘for correctness in proportion, chasteness of design, and the very superior manner in which it is finished.’ It seems his past was not entirely behind him, however, as an angry partner, William Batman, claimed in a newspaper advertisement that George had absconded ‘after having received sums of money on account of work executed by both of us.’ (more…)
Sherrington Alexander Gilder (1828 – 1902) and the commencement of the education of the deaf in NSW.
In her work on the history of the academic education of deaf children in NSW, Barbara Crickmore points to three options available to parents of the deaf in Colonial Australia in the 1850s. They could send their children back to England or some other country for education, keep the child at home and face the prospect of supporting them for the rest of their lives or attempt to place them in an asylum for destitute children. In the late 1850s, says Crickmore, a fourth option became available through the establishment of special schools for deaf in Australia. This move for the provision of special schools is seen, by Crickmore, as commencing in Victoria rather than NSW. It began with some agitation in the letters to the Editor of the Melbourne Argus by parents of deaf children seeking their education. Fredrick Rose, an Englishman who had been deaf since he was four, read the letters and offered to start a school and did so in November 1860. In NSW, Thomas Pattison, formerly associated with the Edinburgh Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Society, commenced a school just prior to this on October 22, 1860 and thus by ‘opening three weeks ahead of the Victorian Institution became the site for the first school for the deaf in Australia.’ It was this work which developed into the Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution (DDBI).
The history of the beginning of the education of the deaf in NSW is, however, a little more complex and earlier than this account would indicate. In December 1850, the Rev Samuel Wilkinson, the Wesleyan minister at Windsor, after having been in the colony for twelve years, wrote a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald advocating the formation of a public institution for the benefit of the deaf and the dumb. Such an Institution was needed, he said, for the deaf and dumb were more numerous than generally supposed and because of the ‘little success that has attended my own efforts, and the private exertions of others’. The letter was unproductive but on December 16, 1852 the Anglesay arrived in Sydney harbour and on board was William Thompson and his wife and three children. One of these children, Marian Elizabeth, was deaf and so the family brought a tutor with them. The tutor was Sherrington Alexander Gilder who, it was said, had been the senior Master of the West of England Institution for the Deaf and Dumb (WEIDD) for the past six years. Gilder had deliberately exaggerated the importance of his position for in 1850 he is listed merely as the second of two assistants to Dr W R Scott who had been the master of the Institution for some time. The later description of Gilder’s role at the WEIDD, no doubt supplied to the journalist of the SMH by Gilder himself, as “having for seven years had nearly the entire conduct” of the Institution is highly unlikely as Gilder was, at the commencement of that seven year period, only 17 years old. While Gilder was prone to exaggerate his importance and role, he did work at the WEIDD and his presence there can be established for at least two years so he may well have commenced there in 1845 as a pupil teacher in order to learn under Scott. By early 1853, Gilder was advertising his services to teach, as boarders, both the deaf and the blind and later in 1854 he was offering evening classes for adults in French as a “Professor of French”. (more…)
William Druce (1827-1925) Sydney City Missionary & Temperance Advocate
Hannah Druce (1829-1909) Sydney Night Refuge & Reformatory Manager
William Crickmer Druce (7 Oct 1827-3 May 1925) was born at Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, England and died at Lakemba, NSW, Australia. He was the third son of Thomas Charles Druce and Elizabeth Crickmer and married in Sydney in April, 1854. His wife, Hannah Church (1829 – 2 Oct 1909) was born in Deal, Kent and together they had three daughters. Fanny Elizabeth (20 Apr 1855 – 10 Jan 1924) was born in Sydney and married Thomas Pankhurst in 1877. Roseanna Jane (1858-23 Jul 1936) was born in Yackandandah Victoria and married George Daniel Clark in 1875, while Diana Harriet (24 Feb 1861 – 20 Oct 1905) was born in Yackandandah, Victoria, and married James Hirst in 1879.
Hannah arrived in the colony of New South Wales (NSW) in December 1852 on the William Kennedy and her occupation was listed as a general servant who could also read and write and was of the Church of England. William had been apprenticed to a master mariner at Great Yarmouth, England, but he and his bother George came to the colony of NSW sometime prior to 1854 and by 1861 William was a miner on the Yackandandah goldfields in Victoria. By 1865 he had returned to the sea being the master, for a short while, of the Orient, a schooner carrying coastal cargoes, a quartermaster on the Rakaia, sailing between New Zealand and Sydney in 1867, a member of the crew of the mission ship the John Williams when it was wrecked in 1867 and a seaman on the John Wesley, plying between Sydney and the South Sea Islands in 1868. 
William had an interest in the Christian faith, mission work, temperance and the welfare of seamen and he became a missionary with the Sydney City Mission (SCM) in 1871, a position he held until 1879. The SCM employed him to work specifically with seamen which he did with considerable zeal and effect as recorded by the Rev Thomas Gainford of the Bethel Union, with whom he worked: (more…)