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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…)
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…)
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…)