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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…)
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 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…)