Philanthropists and Philanthropy

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Henry Phillips (1829-1884) and Margaret Thomson (neé Stobo) (1852-1892) and the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institution

Henry Phillips[1] was the son of William Phillips and Sophia (nee Yates) who were both transported to Australia for fourteen years for “Having & Forged Banknotes.”[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

The Stobo Family – Maggie is standing second on left

Margaret Thomson Stobo[5] (known as ‘Maggie’) was aged 19 when she married Henry, aged 42, on 7 June 1871[6] 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. [7] She came to NSW in 1854[8] with her mother Mary in order to join her father, Captain Robert Stobo.[9] 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.[10] Together Maggie and Henry had six children: Halcyon Mary Spears (1872-1873),[11] Henry Stobo (1873-1897), Beatrice Sophia Yates (1876-1933), Robert Stobo (1878-1890), Irene Victoria (1880-1972)[12] and Frederick Stobo (1884-1916), born shortly before his father’s death.

Church Involvement

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.[13] William’s funeral in 1860 was organised by Charles Beaver ‘undertaker, St James’ Church’ and in 1871, Henry was married there by Canon Allwood.[14] 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.[15] 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’.[16] 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.’[17] 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.’[18]

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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.[1] 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

Jane Steel Walker nee Hart

Jane Steel Walker nee Hart

Lack of a birth certificate has led to speculation by researchers as to the age and identity of Jane.[2] According to her gravestone, Jane Steel Hart was born in St Andrews, Scotland, on 2 July 1832.[3] 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[4] 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.

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Teachers of the Ragged Schools

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…)

John Kent (1843-1916)

John Kent (1843-1916), Accountant and YMCA supporter

John Kent

John Kent

 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.[1] 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.[2]

Kent arrived in Sydney in 1863[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] It is possible that Kent retained his job despite the difficulties, but may have left after a fire destroyed the business in 1867.[6] 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’.[7] It is probable that he spent some time, at least up to 1869, as an ‘Episcopalian catechist’ in the Kurrajong/North Richmond area.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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).[11] 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.[12] Here he planted apples with a view to exporting them to England[13] which he did from 1892,[14] for he correctly foresaw that England could become a major market for the export of Australian fruit.[15]

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William Crane (1826-1914)

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)[1] a publican who was the landlord of the Leather Bottle Inn in Castlereagh Street[2] and Sarah McAvoy (1802-1857). He was educated at the Sydney College under the headmastership of William Timothy Cape[3] and his fellow students included Sir James Martin, William Bede Daley, Sir Henry Stephen and Thomas Alexander Browne (aka Rolf Boldrewood).[4] 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,[5] a boxer,[6] and a strong swimmer, frequently swimming the considerable distance from The Fig Tree, Woolloomooloo, to Garden Island and back.[7]

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.[8]  He returned to Sydney and became a law clerk in the law practice of solicitor Joseph Frey Josephson [9] after which, in 1853[10], he entered the New South Wales civil service as a clerk in the Department of Police.[11] He was appointed clerk of Petty Sessions, Water Police in 1861,[12] a magistrate of the colony in 1869,[13] and then in 1875 Clerk of Petty Sessions in the Central Police court.[14] In 1882, Crane was appointed one of Sydney’s first stipendiary magistrates[15] and officiated at the Central Court until his retirement in 1885.[16] 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.[17]

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