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Thomas Bately Rolin (1827-1899) Governance Philanthropist


Thomas Bately Rolin was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, on 4 September 1827 to Daniel Rolin (a shoemaker) and Ann Bately.[1] 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.[2]  He remained in Victoria for eight months and then, in December 1854, he came to Sydney aboard the Governor General.[3]

In Sydney in May 1857, he married Louisa Jones (1835-1872)[4] the London-born third daughter of Thomas Jones (1796-1879)[5] and Elizabeth nee Smith (1798-1861).[6] Thomas, who was the brother of David Jones of David Jones & Co,[7] was a ‘broker’ or ‘commission agent’ and appears to have arrived in the colony of NSW in 1836.[8] Very little is known about Louisa’s parents or herself except that she had six children with Thomas Rolin: Minnie (1858-1899),[9] Tom (1863-1927),[10] Mildred (1865-1888),[11] unnamed male child (1867),[12] Gertrude (1868-1918)[13] and Frederick Lynne (1870-1950).[14] Thomas and Louisa settled in “Forest Lodge” on the corner of Pitt and Redfern Streets, Redfern, living there at least until 1871[15] when they moved to Burwood. It was here that Louisa died[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] It would appear that he and Thomas formed a partnership as ‘Ship Builders and Shipwrights’ in King’s Lynn.[19] 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,[20] 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.[21]

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.[22] 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’.[23]  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.

Soon after arriving in NSW, Thomas became an articled clerk to William George Pennington in the firm of Pennington and Hart.[24] When the partnership of Pennington and Hart was concluded in 1859[25] Thomas was articled to the other partner in Pennington and Hart, James Hart. Thomas was admitted as a solicitor in 1861.[26] He practiced in his own name for a number of years then, in 1863, joined partnership with Thomas Salter forming the firm of Rolin and Salter.[27] When this firm dissolved around 1878,[28] he practiced in his own name until 1892 when his youngest son Lynne Rolin[29] and William Alfred Gilder[30] joined him forming the partnership of Rolin and Gilder.[31]

Thomas became a successful and respected solicitor. His two sons followed their father into the legal profession. Tom (1863-1927),[32] the eldest son, was particularly academically gifted and attended Cleveland Street, Sydney Grammar and the University of Sydney receiving the University Gold Medal in Mathematics. He graduated BA with first class honours in mathematics having acquired in 1881, the Barker scholarship for second in mathematics and Professor Smith’s prize for proficiency in experimental physics;  in 1882 the Barker scholarship for first in mathematics.[33] He proceeded to take out an MA in 1885, joined the Bar as a barrister-at-law in 1886, became acting District Court Judge in 1903, took silk and in 1908, became a King’s Council in 1912, and was made a Judge of the Industrial Court in 1917.[34]Frederick Lynne (1870-1850), the younger of the two brothers who had joined the family law firm Rolin and Gilder, worked as a solicitor. At his death in 1950 when he was 79, he was regarded as Sydney’s oldest working solicitor. He was interested in movements for the protection of the flora and fauna of the State.[35] Thomas Rolin and his family had prospered and his decision to remain in the colony of NSW had proved to be a good one.

It was said of Rolin that he was of a ‘philanthropic disposition and in an unostentatious manner assisted largely in the carrying on of works of charity’.[36] True as this description of Thomas is (his work certainly was unostentatious and did consist mainly in the ‘carry on’ or the administration of works of charity) it is a rather understated appreciation of the scope and longevity of his philanthropic endeavours. On the other hand, his wife Louisa was not involved in any of Thomas’ charitable works nor does she come to any public notice. The one newspaper mention of her, apart from her funeral notice, is an advertisement she inserted in 1867 for a ‘nursegirl’.[37] Given that she bore children in 1858, 1863, 1865, 1867, 1868 and 1870, and from around 1871 was suffering from phthisis (TB) from which she died in 1872, this is hardly surprising. Her role was in the domestic sphere of wife, mother and homemaker.

Church Involvement

During his time in Sydney, Thomas showed allegiance initially to Baptist and then to Congregational Churches with an involvement which was much more than just attending. He first came to the attention of people in Sydney by his attendance in January 1855 at the first anniversary of the ministry of the Rev James Voller, minister of the Bathurst Street Baptist Church. Voller announced that a Baptist Colonial Missionary Society was to be formed that evening with ‘a view to the increase of ministerial agency among them, and the spread of the Gospel in the country.’ The meeting was then addressed by ‘Mr. Rolin, formerly a student in the Baptist College, Stepney (temporarily in the colony)’.[38] This marks Thomas, who entered Stepney College in 1849,[39] as a man who was very serious about and committed to his Christian faith.

His marriage to Louisa Jones was conducted according to the rites of the Baptist Church by James Voller in April 1857 at Louisa’s parent’s residence.[40] Rolin was the Secretary of the Baptist Church, Pitt Street, from its formation in September 1862[41] under the ministry of Rev W A Murray and he continued as secretary under the pastorate of Rev Robert Moneyment when he became the pastor in October 1862.[42] Initially, the church met at William Street, Woolloomooloo, but later met in the Temperance Hall, Pitt Street. With the death of Moneyment on 25 January 1863,[43] the church wrote to Rev Charles Spurgeon in April 1863, seeking the appointment of a minister which would seem to indicate a sympathy with the Reformed theological emphasis of Spurgeon.[44] Rev Frederick Hibberd was appointed and sent to Australia by Spurgeon in response to their request.[45] He arrived in October and commenced his ministry in November 1863.[46] At Hibberd’s welcome, Rolin clearly articulated the evangelical expectation that a Baptist Church had for their minister when he said:

They sought a minister who should not only benefit them as a congregation, but one who should prove a blessing to the city. There were many souls perishing for the lack of knowledge, and they were anxious to extend that knowledge which was life eternal.[47] 

Rolin continued involvement as the secretary and the church grew, but trouble arose. Ominously, in November 1865 at the celebration of the second year of Hibberd’s ministry, the minister said:

… two years and four months had just passed since he left his own home to occupy the position he then held. He was appointed by the Rev. Mr. Spurgeon. He (Mr. Hibberd) had no doubt that some of the people have been greatly disappointed with him, and he also had been disappointed with the people, but they must bear with each other, just like a man who had recently entered into the state of matrimony – he took his wife for better or for worse. He (Mr. Hibberd) had taken his people for better for worse. Mr. Rolin hoped that the church would be soon built. He (Mr. Hibberd) hoped they would not be too hasty.[48]

 These last two sentences, “Mr. Rolin hoped that the church would be soon built. He (Mr. Hibberd) hoped they would not be too hasty”[49] with their differing expectation of building a church, could perhaps be indicative of the conflict that arose within the church members concerning its future. While this may have been an early indication of problems, it could only have been a small manifestation of much deeper issues. In about February 1867, Hibberd resigned largely as a protest, it was said, against ‘impurity and corruption in the church’, and he eventually left Sydney to go to a church in Tasmania.[50]  Rev James Voller’s comments would seem to indicate that as a newly formed church, the Pitt Street Baptist Church suffered from attracting those who had been disgruntled and disciplined by other church groups, and who by nature were difficult individuals.

From the commencement of the church in the Masonic Hall he knew that nothing could defend it from the taint of corruption. A church which commenced by admitting outcasts from other churches – men who had been excluded deliberately and prayerfully excluded from a Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and had never repented of their sin – could never be peaceful: the seeds of dissension were sown in its very heart. The pure and the impure could not agree, and then a house divided against itself could not stand. No man had a right in the Church of God whose character excluded him from the kingdom of Heaven. It was this very virus which had occasioned deep injury to the brother leaving them.[51]

Where Rolin stood in all this is unknown, but his name does not appear during this time associated with Hibberd or the breakaway group that formed in response to Hibberd’s resignation. In January 1869, Rolin laid the foundation stone of the Baptist Church near Glebe Island[52] which had been commenced by the Pitt Street Church as a Sunday School. He had lent £100, interest free, to the church for a two-year period to allow the church to be built.[53]  He remained involved with this chapel at least until 1871.[54] It would seem that with his move of residence from ‘Forest Lodge’ Pitt and Redfern Street, Redfern,[55] to ‘Cicada House’ Queen Street, Burwood, in 1871/2,[56] he became involved with the Congregational

Advertisement for the rental of Cicada House SMH, 11 March 1871, 1

Church at Burwood, serving as Sunday School Superintendent [57] and with Congregational Churches more generally. In 1871, he made a £5-5-0 donation to the fund for West Maitland Congregational Manse; in 1872, he chaired a meeting of the Redfern Congregational Church[58] and in 1874, he spoke at the Annual Congregational Union meeting. This would all seem to indicate a shift in his denominational affiliation.[59] In 1882, he acted as solicitor for the Congregational Union and provided the drafting and supervision of the Congregational Union Trust Bill.[60] At some stage Rolin, who had in 1886[61] moved from living in Burwood to Strathfield, may have left Burwood Congregational and joined Trinity Congregational Church Strathfield. He was not listed as a member at its formation in 1890,[62] but he donated a memorial, possibly to his wife and daughter, to this church which would seem to indicate some relationship to the church.[63]

Rolin was Secretary in a short-lived but related interdenominational organization, the “United Choir For The Practice Of Psalmody And Other Sacred Music”.[64] The comprehensive name says it all and it was initially very popular with 108 enrolments.[65] It did continue under the guidance of Charles Chizlette[66] a ‘vocal music’ teacher but having done the initial administration, Rolin was no longer directly involved.[67]

Thomas was involved in various community organisations and philanthropic societies. Some for considerable periods of time, some in governance roles and in others as a donor.

Sydney Mechanic’s School of Arts (SMSA)

In February 1856, Thomas’ name was placed on the ballot for the committee of the SMSA; he was unsuccessful and nor was he elected the following year.[68] In 1858, however, he was successful and was then elected annually to the committee until 1872 when he retired from the SMSA committee.[69]

The SMSA was essentially a means of adult education and its popularity was a reflection of the self-help philosophy of the time. Lectures on various subjects of interest were given by volunteers, classes were held in music, mathematics, drawing and mutual improvement (debating). There was also a library with a paid librarian. Membership, which gave access to the facilities and its benefits, cost, at the time of Rolin joining the committee, around £5 per annum and there were some 300+ members in the 1850s.[70] By 1872, when Rolin retired from involvement, the SMSA had greatly expanded its library, range of classes, lectures, activities and its membership as well. It had also built a new building to house its activities. As Thomas moved from Redfern to Burwood in 1872, the discontinuance of his service to the SMSA and his later involvement with a local School of Arts are probably related to this change of his place of residence.

In October 1878, discussions were being held concerning the formation of a “Burwood Mechanical Arts Centre” (BMAC) similar in purpose and structure to the SMSA and it was Thomas who drew up the Trust Deed for it.[71] Thomas continued to be involved in the governance of the BMAC from its inauguration, serving as a committee member 1881-1883, Vice-President 1884-1892 and President 1893-1896.[72]

Burwood School of Arts [73]

At the opening of the BMSA he said:

They had a public school there—one of the best, he might say, in New South Wales. (Cheers.) They had four churches in Burwood, and a fifth was in the course of erection. But there was a large space unoccupied between the public school and the church—unoccupied or only occupied by the public house; and they wanted to have a central spot where their youths, growing up into young men—their young men and their friends—might meet together for the purpose of self-improvement and enjoyment. And they thought that they could accomplish this by the erection of a School of Arts. And he should like that all the people in Burwood should feel an interest in this work. There they could meet on common ground, sinking all differences of opinion, and there they could gather together for social enjoyment and intellectual improvement. And he should like all the ladies to feel that this was their School of Arts. He should like the youths and young men, and heads of families—he should like all to feel and say “this is our School of Arts.” And if they set to work with heart and will, he was sure that they would have an institution raised there and continued for years to come, where the people of Burwood would enjoy themselves in a harmless manner, and where they would derive much profit in intellectual improvement.[74]

This speech was indicative of the values of the times that led to the formation of the BMSA. Rolin indicates a desire for community support for the BMSA and says that its facilities were available to all, but it also indicates a priority of purpose which was to serve the interests of young men:

… they wanted to have a central spot where their youths, growing up into young men—their young men and their friends—might meet together for the purpose of self-improvement and enjoyment. And they thought that they could accomplish this by the erection of a School of Arts.[75]

The New Reading Room, Sydney Mechanic’s School of Arts, 1879 (note the almost exclusively male presence)[76]

While there were in the SMSA, upon which the BMSA was patterned, some classes for women, the emphasis was on providing educational opportunities for young men and the BMSA followed this template. This is clearly seen in exclusive male composition of those in the illustration above which was published upon the opening of the new reading room at the SMSA in 1879 at the time that the Burwood School of Arts had just been opened.

Rolin’s early interest in this self-improvement movement, exemplified in the SMSA and BMSA, requires some comment. It was not that he was just seeking to access the services and facilities of the SMSA in 1857 when he was new in the colony of NSW. There was much more to his interest than that, for he was seeking to be involved in its governance. The question is why was he doing so?

The answer probably lies with W G Pennington who was the solicitor who employed Thomas and to whom he was to be an article clerk. Pennington had a significant role within the SMSA being at various times its solicitor, the treasurer, vice-president, trustee and chairman of a committee of enquiry into the running of the SMSA.[77]  James Hart, Pennington’s partner in business, also sought election to the committee of the SMSA at the same time as Thomas.  It is most probably the case that Pennington had encouraged them both to stand for election. For Thomas, apart from whatever personal interest he may have had, it would be a prudent step on his part to support his employer’s interest in the SMSA.[78]

Sydney Female Refuge Society

Thomas served on the Gentleman’s Committee of the Sydney Female Refuge Society from 1868-1884.[79] It was not always the case, but it was usual for the wife of those who served on the Gentleman’s Committee to also serve on the Ladies Committee. Louisa, however, did not do so.

Sydney City Mission

Thomas was a founding member of the Sydney City Mission and continued in membership of the governance committee for eleven years from 1863 to 1874.[80]

Bush Missionary Society

Thomas was a donor (£10 in 1874)[81]to and member of the governance committee from 1864 to 1888.[82]

Sydney Night Refuge and Reformatory

The Sydney Night Refuge and Reformatory (SNRR) Francis Street, Woolloomooloo, which originally just provided a Sunday morning breakfast to the poor, was a privately run charity begun in 1863 and carried on by Andrew and Barbara Armstrong, and Mary Ann and George Lucas among others. In 1864, it was decided to make it a public charitable effort and a committee was appointed. Thomas was elected to the committee for the years 1866 to 1868,[83] and was a donor of £2-2-0 in 1871-72, 1882.[84] The SNRR met in the Juvenile Temperance Hall, Francis Street and offered for men, from mid-teens to 70 years of age, food, a bed for the night and spiritual counsel. At its first annual meeting, it was able to report that the average number of persons who attended nightly to receive food and shelter was 29 and during the year more than 9,000 breakfasts, consisting of ½ a pound of bread and a pint of tea for each person.[85] A second night refuge (known as the Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen) was formed in Sydney in 1868, and John Mills, the secretary of the existing Francis Street SNRR, wrote to the papers at the time of the formation of a second refuge and pointed out that people should not think of this as an expansion of the Francis Street SNRR as it was a different organization. He also pointed out that the SNRR differentiated itself from the proposed refuge in that the SNRR, unlike the newly formed refuge, had an overt Christian ministry, albeit a non-sectarian one:

The [SNRR] is as unsectarian as any institution conducted by Christian persons can be; the Scriptures are read, and the inmates commended to the blessing and protection of “Him who slumbered not, nor sleeps, “but to be as unsectarian as those who boldly propose to “exclude the religious element”, is more than we can be while we have any fear of God before our eyes.[86]

Sydney Ragged Schools

Rolin was a regular donor to the Ragged Schools in the period 1869 to 1879 and he was giving £2-2-0 rather than the common donation of £1-1-0.[87]

Cemeteries and the New South Wales Cremation Society

Rolin was one of the two “Independent” Trustees for both the Devonshire Street Cemetery and Rookwood Cemetery.[88] He was present and participated in the formation of the New South Wales Cremation Society in 1887[89] and in his will expressed the desire to be cremated. Nothing further was heard of the Cremation Society until 1890, and Rolin took no part in its governance or promotion. As the first crematorium in Sydney did not operate until 1925, he was not cremated when he died in 1899, despite his wishes.[90] His son Tom also expressed such a wish and since he died in 1927 it is assumed those wishes were met.

Flood Relief Fund

In June 1867, floods devastated the Hawkesbury area of New South Wales and this loss aroused the sympathy of many of the inhabitants of the State. Meetings were called in various localities and funds collected. One such meeting was within the area of the Municipal Council of Redfern and TB Rolin was appointed secretary of this local effort.[91] The purpose of the General Flood Relief Fund of 1867, of which the Redfern effort was a small part, was ‘relieving cases of distress caused by floods within the boundaries of New South Wales!’[92] Rolin also served as one of 15 on the ‘Working Committee’ of the General Relief Fund which met monthly and adjudicated the allocation of relief to needy cases.[93] At this time, some £22,000 had been donated. Another flood occurred in 1870 in the Hawkesbury, Hunter and Shoalhaven regions which required allocation of aid.[94] Further calls on the funds took place in 1874-5 for the Maitland area after which there was a 10 year hiatus until 1887 when funds were utilized to assist those in the Clarence River district. In January 1888, the remaining funds were invested and were not used until 1890 when assistance was again needed for the Windsor and Richmond areas, Bourke and Grafton.[95] At this stage, there were only five surviving members of the Working Committee of which Rolin had become secretary.[96] On 20 June 1890, the remainder of the funds were transferred by Rolin to the New South Wales Flood Relief Fund and Rolin’s role ceased after being involved for 23 years.[97]

Sports Clubs

Rolin was keen on cricket but that was not the same as being skilful for in a ‘non-players’ game in 1864, at the Albert Cricket Club ground in Redfern, he was out for a duck.[98] He did a little better in captaining the 1865 match as an opener for he scored 1 and 5, but he did take 5 wickets and his side won by 21 runs.[99] He was elected to the Committee of the Albert Cricket Club and Ground at least from 1864-1866,[100] and in 1871 was appointed President of the Union (renamed Independent) Cricket Club at Redfern;[101] in 1877 he umpired the ‘Attorneys vs Bar’ Cricket match.[102]

When he moved to Strathfield, Rolin was a founding member of a recreation club known as the Union Recreation Club, later to be known as the Strathfield Recreation Club. The Club began on 1 May 1881 with the first ever meeting of the Union Recreation Club at the home of Rolin. It was attended by Messrs H C Fraser, D Vernon, T B Rolin and J Kinloch.[103] They decided that “the establishment of a club for bowling and other amusements would be beneficial to the neighborhood in which they resided, especially if ladies were admitted” and so a public meeting was called to effect the formation of the Club. Ground was purchased and on 6 May 1882 the Club and Grounds, then known as the Union Recreation Club, was opened. It consisted of a Pavilion, Gymnasium, Skittle Alley, Bowling Green, Lawn Tennis Courts and rooms for other activities including Billiards.[104]

Strathfield Recreation Club


It would appear that Rolin had a thriving legal business looking after deceased estates for probate, advising barristers and representing clients in court. One indication that he was financially secure, as well as reflecting his philanthropic nature and perhaps also his social position in society, was that his charitable giving to various causes was often double the usual expected £1-1-0, and sometimes more.

In the early 1870s, he involved himself in various mining company ventures. He was a director of the Great Western Gold Mining Company; The Khedive Company; a Trustee of Northern Cow Flat Copper Co; Hawkins Hill Gold Mining Co; Director of Lion Reef Gold Mining Company; a shareholder in the Moolboolaman Copper Mining Co; Marshall’s Rich Vein Gold Mining Co; King and Everett’s Gold-mining Co; Franklin Harbour Block 2 Silver Mining Company; Director and Trustee of Morning Star Gold Mining Co; Director of Guiding Star Gold Mining Co and a Director Reform Gold Mining Co.[105] It is not known if any of these investments during this period of intense interest in mining produced any significant return to Rolin or the other investors. No doubt Rolin did benefit financially, however, when he was elected as an auditor for the Australian Joint Stock Bank in 1871, serving in accord with the Bank’s rules a three-year term, concluding in 1873.[106]

Over his lifetime, Rolin involved himself in various causes such as the abolition of state aid to the churches and responding to the attempted assassination of Prince Alfred.

 Abolition of State Aid to Religion and Parkes Education Act (1866)

In July 1862, Rolin was a member of a committee appointed by a public meeting whose aim was to take whatever steps were necessary to abolish State Aid to religion.[107]

A petition was drawn up arguing that such aid was not the proper function of the State and it was,

… injurious to religion itself, and an inevitable source of discord among the people: and … inflicts injustice on those who support their own religious system, by compelling them to support those also of others, in which they have neither faith nor advantage, it is imperative, for social peace, for religious freedom …

that such aid should cease.[108] Such representations were successful, and State Aid was abolished.[109]

Another matter which impacted the place of the churches in NSW was Parkes’ Education Act of 1866. A meeting was called by the residents of Redfern in order to express support for the Education bill before the parliament affirming that education was “The right of every child, and not a political concession.[110] It was Rolin who was the chief speaker at this rally. Parkes’ bill proposed that

The two existing boards were to be replaced by a Council of Education; denominational schools assisted by State funds were to remain, but only if they had substantial reenrolments, placed themselves under the new Council of Education, subjected themselves to inspection, gave four hours of secular instruction each day and accepted children of other denominations.[111]

Rolin spoke vigorously and at length on the proposal which was adopted, moving the motion to adopt a petition from the Redfern residents in favour of the Parks’ Education proposals.[112]

Reaction to attempted assassination of Prince Alfred

There was a general reaction of horror at the attempted assassination of Prince Alfred in Sydney in March 1868 by an Irishman, Patrick O’Farrell. Rolin took a leading part in calling for the Mayor of Redfern to convene a public meeting ‘to afford them an opportunity of publicly expressing their indignation at the diabolical attempt upon the life of his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh …’[113]. At that meeting Rolin, as was appropriate given his primary role in calling the meeting, moved the first resolution:

That this meeting desires to record in the strongest possible terms its abhorrence of the dastardly deed by which the life of his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has been imperilled and the hospitality of the colony outraged, and to join in the hearty outburst of indignation at the crime felt by all classes of the people, and to join in the expressions of sympathy and good feeling towards his Royal Highness which are pouring in from all quarters.[114]

This was then followed by an energetic speech by Rolin which he ended by saying,

… they should be careful they did not charge home to any class of the community the crime which everyone regarded with abhorrence. If this act should turn out to be the result of plotting and conspiracy, he hoped the people would sink their differences of religious creed and nationality, and join their hand to crush such a monstrous iniquity and drive it out of this free country.[115]

This assassination attempt had both negative and positive effects on society. Rolin’s words in his speech sought to avoid the possible negative effects and regretfully these were unheeded for as Dunn says:

O’Farrell’s actions had an intense effect on the Irish element in the Colony as the blame for the attempted assassination fell squarely on the Irish Catholics which spiraled aggression towards both Irish and non-loyalist, an early example of prejudice and racism in Australia. The shooting of Prince Alfred made national headlines and gave a general feeling of indignation and hurt of national pride. If O’Farrell had shot a lesser unknown person there would not have been such a national outcry which set a tone of distrust amongst many communities and provoked Protestant against Catholics and Australians against Australians.[116]

On the positive side, these events and the recovery of the Prince led the community to want to do something to mark their loyalty and to celebrate his recovery. It was decided to commence a fund for the purpose of having a hospital to be known as the Prince Alfred Hospital. Rolin became a member of the Prince Alfred Hospital Fund Committee and was a diligent collector of donations for the fund.[117]

In summary, in his time in the colony of New South Wales, Thomas Bately Rolin was associated with the Independent tradition of the Christian Church, initially the Baptist and later in life the Congregational. He was a solicitor and he used his skills by participating in the governance of numerous organisations with a Community and/or with an explicitly Christian emphasis. He was involved in the provision of adult education, initially through the Sydney and later the Burwood School of Arts. Involved in his local church, he served variously as Church Secretary and as a Sunday School Superintendent. Assisting the community in times of disaster and celebration, he took an active interest and role in community organisations for flood relief, funding of the Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, and the Strathfield Recreation Club. He was a long-serving member of the Sydney Female Refuge Society, a founding committee member of the Sydney City Mission, on the governance committee of the Bush Missionary Society and the Sydney Night Refuge and Reformatory.

Rolin did not initiate any particular organization apart from being a founding member of the Sydney City Mission, but he did exercise leadership on a number of community issues.  He was one of the numerous dedicated Christian workers who gave of their time in the governance of various charitable and community organisations.

Dr Paul F Cooper

Research Fellow

Christ College, Sydney

The appropriate way to cite this article is as follows:

Paul F Cooper. Thomas Bately Rolin (1827-1899) Governance Philanthropist. Philanthropy and Philanthropists in Australian Colonial History Available at

[1] Thomas Beatley born 4 September 1827, baptised 28 September 1827, son of Daniel and Ann Rolin, Chapel St Lynn, Shoemaker Registry No 948  “Register of unspecified type, St Margaret, King’s Lynn, Norfolk”. FreeREG Parish Register database Free UK Genealogy (accessed 5 Dec 2020). The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 1 July 1899, 28.

[2]  The Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List (NSW), 27 March 1854, 57.

[3] SMH, 13 December 1854, 4.

[4]  SMH, 27 July 1872, 1.

[5] Several of the Rolin children are born at the same address as Thomas Jones. Later Sands Sydney Directory 1877 has his address as Lucas Street Burwood which is the same address as T B Rolin. SMH, 5 April, 1879, 1. This gives his location at the time of death.

[6] SMH, 21 Sep 1861, 6. Elizabeth Jones Death Certificate NSW BDM 819/1861gives her father’s name as Smith. They were probably married on 23 September 1821 at St Andrews Holborn, England.

[7] David Jones was married to Jane Mander at St Andrew’s Holborn, England. In a notice that appeared concerning the death of the sister of David Jones and Thomas Jones of Redfern.

[8] This statement is made on the basis of information from Louise Rolin’s death certificate where it is indicated that at the time of her death in 1872 she was 37 and had been in the colony of NSW for 36 years. This would require that she arrived in the colony with her parents in 1836. Death Certificate Louisa Rolin 1947/1872 NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages.

[9] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 22 May 1858, 4; The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), 24 January 1899, 1.

[10] SMH, 10 May 1927, 11; 21 October 1863, 9.

[11] SMH, 21 June 1865, 7; The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 10 November 1888, 1010.

[12] NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages Death Rolin Infant 2679/1867 Thomas, Louisa Redfern. 3 March 1867; Birth, 3 March 1867.

[13] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 25 August 1868, 1; NSW BDM 6483/1918 Gertrude A Williams; The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 4 May 1904, 1145.

[14] SMH, 31 May 1950, 5.

[15] SMH, 12 June 1865, 1; 9 September 1868, 8; 1 December 1870, 1; Sands Sydney Directory 1871, 470. By 1872 the Rolin’s had moved to “Cicada” Queen Street, Burwood. SMH, 26 July 1872, 10; Sands Sydney Directory 1873, 471; 1875, 430. Sands Sydney Directory 1876, 184; 1877, 457 has his address as Lucas Street, Burwood. Sands Sydney Directory 1879, 153 at Victoria Street, Burwood; 1880, 178 Lumsdaine’s Paddocks, Burwood; Sands Sydney Directory 1883, 474  Redmyre Road, Strathfield

[16] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 2 December 1870, 1; NSW BDM Frederick Lynne Rolin 8002/1950.

[17] Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 28 June 1899, 4.

[18] 1851 English Census Kings Lynne, William Salmon Rolin.

[19] FROM THE LONDON GAZETTE.” Examiner, 21 Oct. 1854. British Library Newspapers, Accessed 1 October 2020.

[20] He became a citizen on 20/10/1860 which required a sworn statement that he had been continuously resident in the United States for 5 years which require that William was resident in the United States since October 1855. City Court Brooklyn vol 30, 863.

[21] “Court of Bankruptcy, London” Cambridge Independent Press, 16 December, 1854, 3. British Library Newspapers. [Accessed 1 October 2020]

[22] “Court of Bankruptcy, London” Cambridge Independent Press, 16 December, 1854, 3. British Library Newspapers. [Accessed 1 October 2020]

[23] SMH, 6 January 1855, 4.

[24] Linda Martin ‘From Apprenticeship to Law School: A Social History of Legal Education in Nineteenth Century New South Wales’, UNSW Law Journal 1986, 9, 114 says the rule was ‘those aspiring to enter the profession as attorneys be required to serve a period of five years as an articled clerk in the practice of a qualified practitioner, whether in New South Wales or in Great Britain or Ireland.’ As Rolin became of Solicitor in May 1861 and assuming he took the minimum time he entered his articles in 1856 or 1855.

[25] New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW), 4 January 1859 [Issue No.1], 7.

[26] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 29 April 1861, 5.

[27] Sydney Mail, 1 July 1899, 28; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 4 May 1868, 1.

[28] The last newspaper reference to the partnership is in SMH, 25 April 1878, 9.

[29] Frederick Lynne Rolin had been an article clerk to his father and became a solicitor in 1893. SMH, 2 June 1893, 1.

[30] Gilder had been article clerk to Rolin and was admitted as a solicitor in 1890. Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 25 February 1890, 8. He was in Rolin’s employ before this date, probably from 1885, he named his son, born in November 1888, Rolin Gilder. Regretfully Rolin Gilder died the next year. SMH, 21 November 1889, 12. W. A. Gilder was the son of Sherrington Alexander Gilder formerly a teacher of the deaf at the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute.

[31] Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 28 June 1899, 4. The partnership began in late 1893. SMH, 11 October 1893, 8.

[32] SMH, 10 May 1927, 12.

[33] The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW), 31 March 1883, 7.

[34] SMH, 2 February 1917, 8.

[35] SMH, 31 May 1950, 5.

[36] SMH, 27 June 1899, 4.

[37] SMH, 26 January 1867, 10.

[38] SMH, 6 January 1855, 4.

[39] The Baptist Quarterly: Incorporating the Transactions of the Baptist Historical Society. United Kingdom: Vol 41-42, 2006, 131.

[40] Thomas Rolin and Louisa Jones Marriage Certificate 368/1857 NSW Births Deaths and Marriages.

[41] Sydney Mail (NSW), 18 October 1862, 4.

[42] SMH, 21 October 1862, 9.

[43] SMH, 19 February 1863, 7.

[44] SHM, 4 December 1863, 8; Sydney Mail (NSW), 12 November 1864, 4; 11 November 1865, 4.

[45] Empire (Sydney, NSW), November 1865, 4.

[46] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 28 Nov 1863, 1.

[47] SMH, 4 December 1863, 8.

[48] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 10 November 1865, 4.

[49] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 10 November 1865, 4.

[50] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 2 March 1867, 1; Launceston Examiner (Tas.), 18 July 1867, 3.

[51] Launceston Examiner (Tas), 18 July 1867, 3.

[52] Sydney Mail (NSW), 30 January 1869, 5.

[53] SMH, 17 March 1870, 5.

[54] SMH, 25 March 1870, 8;11 March 1871, 1.

[55] SMH, 26 January 1867, 10.

[56] He spoke at a Sunday School set up at Druitt Town (Strathfield South) by the Burwood Congregational Church. Sydney Mail (NSW), 4 February 1871, 4 but ‘Cicada House’ was still being advertised as a rental property until October 1871. SMH, 14 October 1871, 3. 

[57] Gordon Nicols, Burwood Congregational Heritage: the story of Burwood Congregational Church for over one hundred years (nd), 114

[58] SMH, 28 February 1872, 4.

[59] SMH, 21 October 1871, 2; 7 October 1874, 1.

[60] New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW), 25 August 1882 [Issue No.338], 4401.

[61] Sands Sydney Directory 1886, 723.


[63] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 8 September 1890, 3.

[64] SMH, 13 June 1864, 1.

[65] SMH, 29 June 1864, 1.

[66] SMH, 29 Aug 1885, 1. Charles Chizlette was vocal music teacher for 27 years in National and Public Schools in Sydney he died 29 August 1884.

[67]  Empire (Sydney, NSW), 6 January 1865, 1.

[68] SMH, 4 February 1856, 1; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 4 February 1857, 4.

[69] SMH, 26 February 1859, 1; 8 February 1860, 7; 4 February 1863, 3; 3 February 1864, 5; 11 February 1865, 3; 6 February 1867, 5; 4 February 1869,3; 2 February 1870, 4; 8 February 1871, 5.

[70] SMH, 2 February 1853, 2; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 9 February 1854, 3.

[71] SMH, 18 October 1878, 5; 23 December 1878, 3.

[72] SMH, 10 February 1881, 8; 10 February 1882, 6; 8 February 1883, 7; 8 February 1884, 7; Globe (Sydney, NSW), 3 February 1886, 4; The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW),  4 February 1887, 4; SMH, 10 February 1888, 5; The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 7 February 1890, 5; SMH, 5 February 1891, 5; 4 February 1892, 4; Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 6 February 1895, 3; The Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 5 February 1896, 6. 

[73] Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), 2 November 1889, 30.

[74] SMH, 23 December 1878, 3.

[75] SMH, 23 December 1878, 3.

[76] Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), 14 June 1879, 24.

[77]New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW), 28 May 1852 [Issue No.54], 856; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 3 October 1851, 5 February 1855, 1; 4 August 1857, 1; SMH, 8 October 1853, 12.

[78] New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW), 28 May 1852 [Issue No.54], 856; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 3 October 1851, 5 February 1855, 1; 4 August 1857, 1.

[79] Sydney Mail (NSW), 18 Jul 1868, 6; 24 July 1869, 2; Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 26 July 1870, 2; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 2 August 1871, 2; Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 10 June 1873, 4; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 2 June 1874, 3; SMH,  21 May 1878, 3; 30 April 1879, 6; 17 April 1880, 3; The Sydney Daily Telegraph (NSW), 14 April 1881, 3; SMH, 28 March 1882, 7; The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 1 April 1884, 6.

[80] SMH, 12 July 1862, 7; 2 June 1863, 5; 4 June 1864, 5; 17 June 1865, 5; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 16 June 1868, 3; SMH, 4 June 1872, 2; 27 May 1873, 5; 9 Jun 1874, 3.

[81] SMH, 26 Jun 1875, 4.

[82] SMH, 6 July 1864, 4; Sydney Mail, 22 July 1865, 4; 14 July 1866, 2; SMH, 2 Aug 1870, 5; Sydney Mail NSW Advertiser, 2 Aug 1873, 145; 18 July 1874, 81; SMH, 18 July 1876, 5; 23 July 1878, 5; 26 July 1879, 3; The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 1 August 1885, 261; Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), 31 July 1886,  18; SMH,  23 July 1887, 11; 21 July 1888, 10.

[83] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 19 June 1866, 1; SMH, 26 June 1867, 3; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 30 June 1868, 2.

[84] SMH, 4 July 1871, 1; 3 July 1872, 10; 3 June 1882, 9.

[85] Empire (Sydney, NSW), 19 June 1866, 1.

[86] SMH, 1 June 1868, 5.

[87] SMH, 3 November 1869, 1; 4 October 1871, 1; 6 October 1875, 2, Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 12 October 1878, 1; SMH, 8 October 1879, 2; 4 November 1886, 2

[88] SMH, 10 February 1888, 7; The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 27 September 1899, 5; New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW), 25 January 1867 [Issue No.18], 238.

[89] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 17 August 1887, 3.

[90] Murray, Lisa, ‘Death and dying in twentieth century Sydney’, Dictionary of Sydney, 2013,, viewed 15 Oct 2020.

[91] SMH, 2 July 1867, 5.

[92] Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW), 19 April 1890,3.

[93]  Sydney Mail (NSW), 19 October 1867, 11.

[94] SMH, 3 June 1870, 4.

[95] SMH, 3 May 1890, 11.

[96] Daily Telegraph, (Sydney, NSW) 23 April 1890, 5.

[97] Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW), 18 August 1900, 7.

[98] SMH, 16 May 1864, 5.

[99] SMH, 1 December 1865, 5.

[100] Freemans Journal, 5 October 1864, 3; SMH, 15 October 1864, 2; 26 September 1866, 4.

[101] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 21 July 1871, 2.

[102] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 3 February 1877, 150.

[103] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 7 August 1897, 281.

[104] [accessed 18/10/2020]

[105] SMH, 9 March 1872, 7; Evening News (Sydney, NSW),  24 June 1872, 2; SMH, 6 July 1872, 6; Maitland Mercury and Hunter River Advertiser, 13 July 1872, 2; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 28 September 1872, 3; New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW), 8 October 1872 [Issue No.267], 2589; 22 October 1872 [Issue No.278], 2746 ; SMH, 9 November 1872, 5; The Kadina and Wallaroo Times (SA ), 20 September 1890, 3; SMH, 21 March 1873, 5 ; 13 December 1873, 8 ; 30 April 1875, 1.

[106] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 26 July 1871, 2; SMH, 25 January 1872, 3; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 27 January 1873, 1;   23 January 1874, 2.  

[107] Sydney Mail (NSW), 12 July 1862, 7.

[108] SMH, 12 July 1862, 7.

[109] R. B. Walker (1962) The abolition of state aid to religion in New South Wales, Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand, 10:38, 165-177, DOI: 10.1080/10314616208595220

[110]  Sydney Mail (NSW), 17 March 1866, 12; Empire (Sydney, NSW), 1 October 1866, 1.

[111] A. G. Austin, Australian Education 1788-1900, Church, State and Public Education in Colonial Australia (Melbourne: Pitman & Sons, 1961), 118.

[112] SMH, 13 Oct 1866, 8.

[113] SMH, 17 March 1868, 1.

[114] Sydney Mail (NSW), 21 March 1868, 12.

[115] Sydney Mail (NSW), 21 March 1868, 12.

[116] Cathy Dunn, ‘The Attempted assassination of Prince Alfred at Clontarf 1868’, Australian History Research,, accessed [20/10/2021].

[117] SMH, 25 April 1868, 8.

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