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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: