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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…)
John Shedden Adam was born in 1824 in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, to James Adam (1771-1849) and Janet Shedden (1788-1863). James and Janet married on August 10, 1807, and they had eight children of whom John was the youngest son. John’s father was a man of many parts being an estate manager or factor, a land improver, a Writer to the Signet and the inventor of a screw propeller for naval ships. James was originally from Lochwinnoch where he had a small property and in 1807 was appointed the factor on the great Drummond estate. On his own account, he was later involved in land improvement schemes at Barr Loch from 1813 until 1815; these proved a financial disaster. Fortunately, by marrying into the Shedden family and through the wealth and generosity of Janet’s uncle, the Adam family did not face ruin and were later to inherit significant wealth. These Barr Loch holdings were sold by 1820 and on quitting agricultural pursuits and leaving Garpel near Lochwinnoch, James practised as a Writer to the Signet (solicitor) in Edinburgh, a profession to which he had been apprenticed.
Around 1821, James returned again to the role of factor (property manager) moving his family to Lewis where he worked for Mackenzie of Seaforth at least until 1826. Around this date, he moved back to Edinburgh and recommenced his business as a Writer to the Signet. John Shedden Adam, despite the strong family connections to Lochwinnoch where all his siblings were born and his relatives had significant landholdings, spent his childhood initially on Lewis and then from 5 years of age in Edinburgh. He went to school at the Royal Naval and Military Academy, Lothian Road, Edinburgh. This institution was commenced for the purpose of ‘affording education to pupils destined to serve in the army or navy, or East India Company’s service’. The Academy taught a range of practical subjects such as mathematics, science and engineering and languages but, importantly for Adam’s future work as a draftsman, it also taught landscape and perspective drawing. In 1841, John was awarded the Master’s prize in senior mathematics and first prize in civil engineering.
The Adam Family and New Zealand
By 1841, the extended Adam family had decided to seek their fortune in New Zealand. John’s brother James and his wife Margaret took passage to New Zealand on the Brilliant and arrived in October of that year. The Adam family had been convinced by the New Zealand Manukau and Waitemata Company to invest £1,200 in shares for land and were led to believe that the wonderful city of Cornwallis was ready and waiting for energetic young immigrants, such as themselves, from Scotland. The settlement was a disaster. Where settlers expected there to be a town there was nothing but wilderness, and they had been duped by exaggerated promises. Sadly, the settlement leader, together with James Adam and several others, going on an errand of mercy to get medicine for a sick woman (Mrs. Hamblin, wife of the Missionary at Manukau) were drowned in November of 1841 and the plans of the Adam family were thrown into disarray.
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.
In 1902 the Hawkesbury Herald wrote that
No man more truly deserved the name of philanthropist than Mr Comrie … he busied himself during the later years of his life by doing good by stealth. The perfume of good deeds, however, always betrays the doer sooner or later…
Another paper described James Comrie as a ‘literary philanthropist.’ What were his activities ‘the perfume of good deeds’ that that led him to be deserving of the designation of ‘philanthropist’ and that of a ‘literary philanthropist’ in particular? How was he able to be a philanthropist of note and “Who was James Comrie?” for he is, to-day, a largely unknown figure.
James Comrie was a Scot, born in Edinburgh 1 May 1816 and he died at Kurrajong Heights at Northfield on 2 November 1902. He was the youngest of eleven children born to Peter and Helen Comrie. James’ father died when he was two years old and he was raised by his pious Presbyterian mother. Though his mother was a ‘strict Presbyterian she had a catholic spirit, and took her children sometimes to hear Dr Thomas McCrie, Christopher Anderson, and Wesleyan ministers’. James himself was to emulate this religious catholicity, interacting and enjoying the company of Christians of all persuasions. His schooling must also have added to his non-sectarian outlook for he attended a Quaker school.
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…)
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…)
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…)
Joseph Paxton (1828-1882) Miner, Musician, Philanthropist and Churchman
Joseph Paxton was, to a remarkable degree, both a financial and a governance philanthropist. He was born on 10 May 1828 at Dunbar, Scotland, to James a journeyman boot maker and Margaret (nee Greig) Paxton. Though a brass founder by trade Joseph was a gifted singer and musician and he taught music and also led the singing in one of the Edinburgh churches for some six years. He married Elizabeth Bennett in 1853 and they left for the colony of NSW arriving in Sydney in early 1854. Their daughter Margaret born in 1854 died in 1855 but two further children, James Alexander (1856) and Elizabeth Bennett (1860) were born to the family at Tambaroora (Hill End).
Initially Paxton earned a living in Sydney by giving performances of Scottish Songs and he also toured giving concerts in the Hunter Valley. His singing was appreciated and was compared in style to the famous Scots singers Wilson and Templeton with ‘interest being sustained by anecdotes and explanatory remarks illustrative of the songs’. It would appear that Joseph, as an entertainer, was comfortable being a public figure and throughout his life was willing to express his opinions on various subjects. These public skills and attitudes would later lead him to often be chosen to chair public meetings of various organisations.
The Gold Miner
In late 1854 the family left for the Gold Diggings on the Turon River in NSW where Paxton took up a miner’s right on Hawkin’s Hill at Hill End. By 1866, Paxton entered a partnership with William Holman and some others to form Paxton, Holman and Co whose purpose was to mine a claim on Hawkins Hill. There were some 32 men employed on the site working both day and night and probably six days a week and after thirteen months of extremely hard work the first ore was crushed in March 1869. In the period June 1870-May 1871 the mine was producing some £16,000 (approximately $2 million current value) worth of gold and the value of the area was shown when, in 1872, one nugget was found which on its own was worth £16,000. Paxton was involved in numerous other mining ventures and partnerships at Hill End as mining required considerable capital to exploit the deposits. There were 255 Companies on the Hill End goldfield in 1872-1873 and they had a combined nominal capital of £3,673,937 of which Paxton’s company was the biggest by far with a nominal capital of £160,000. As a miner and mine owner, Paxton was concerned for the safety of mining and was part of a deputation to the Minister for Lands to seek the appointment of a mines inspector for gold mines. He said that many accidents which had taken place on the gold-fields were due in many instances to the incompetency and utter ignorance of men appointed by boards of directors as mine managers. He had no patience with those mine owners and companies that cited cost as a deterrence to the appointment of a mines inspector for such miners who were under capitalised had no right to exist if they did not have the funds to protect the lives of their men. He thought that by such an appointment the Government might incur the displeasure of some but would at the same time earn the gratitude of thousands of miners. (more…)
Isabella Price (1830 – 1920) Consumptive Hospital Matron
Isabella Price is an example of one of the many Christian women whose contribution to NSW society and to the ministry of the Christian Church has gone unrecorded and unacknowledged. Her work was largely unrecognised in her own day and what recognition was given to her area of service was overshadowed by others.
Isabella Price was the matron of the Goodlet Consumptive Home from its opening in September 1877 until July 1894. This Home was a private charity set up, funded and run by the Scottish born Sydney merchant, manufacturer, philanthropist and churchman John Hay Goodlet. John and Ann Goodlet began the Home in a leased former hotel at Picton in September of 1877 and it could cater for 18 patients. Both males and females were admitted and the only requirement for admission was that the persons were poor and consumptive. Such was the demand for places in the Goodlet Home that in 1884 the Goodlets began to plan a purpose built facility at Thirlmere which could cater for 40 patients again at no cost to those admitted. It was opened in September 1886. The construction cost of the home was fully met by the generosity of the Goodlets. They did not spare any expenditure on either the construction of the Home or in its recurrent costs and they even paid for the burials of the many who died there. In the period 1877 to 1893 when the Goodlets ran the hospital some 940 patients were admitted with 233 patients dying within the facility.
It was of this facility that Isabella Price was the matron. Little is known of Isabella Price other than that her work was highly esteemed by the Goodlets and the patients. Isabella was born in 1831 in Barrackpore, Calcutta India to Andrew and Elizabeth Marr (nee Peters). Her father was the Park Superintendent at Barrackpore and died before she was one and her mother died when she was seven. Her mother must have had a difficult life, being first married in 1821 (Daniel Desmond) and again in 1824 (George Dougherty) and then to Isabella’s father in 1825. On the death of Andrew Marr in 1831 she then married again in 1832 (John Gash) and she herself died in 1838. When Isabella was 14 she and her step sister were orphaned through her step father’s death in 1844. It is unknown what happen to Isabella but her step sister was consigned to the European Female Orphans Asylum where she died two years later. Thus at the age of 16 Isabella was left with no family.
Elizabeth Mary Goodlet nee Forbes (1854 – 1926) Missions activist and Presbyterian.
Elizabeth Mary Forbes was born in Singleton, New South Wales, on the 15th of October 1854 to Alexander Leith Forbes and Jean (nee Clark). The Forbes family were of Free Presbyterian background and while Alexander was ordained at Methlick Free Church, he resigned in 1852 just prior to coming to Australia. When he and his wife Jane arrived in Sydney on ‘The Boomer’ in July 1853, he commenced a new life as a school master.
Alexander Forbes was conservative in theology, a strong-minded and honest man, fearless and straightforward and outspoken to friends and foes alike, but he was not a ‘people person’ which may explain why he did not persist in the ordained ministry. John Walker, who knew Alexander well, described him as
a man of competent knowledge and strict integrity, with a warm heart. As a friend, he was as true as steel, and hospitable to a degree. Those who did not know Mr Forbes were often misled by his manner; but those who knew him best, loved and trusted him most.
By contrast, his wife Jean Forbes (born April 1, 1827 and dying April 3, 1889), was modest, shrinking and unobtrusive in disposition with a faith that delighted in the ‘old paths’, in the Sabbath and the Bible. She had been the one who was the homemaker of the Forbes household, finding satisfaction in the domestic sphere and in hospitality. Elizabeth Mary was effectively an only child as a brother had died in infancy. In character and opportunity she was much more like her father than her mother, and her mother’s commitment to the domestic sphere permitted Elizabeth to pursue her own Christian interests. In 1877, the Forbes family moved to King Street, Ashfield, and joined the newly formed Ashfield Presbyterian Church December 4, 1877.
In a church such as Ashfield where John Hay and Ann Alison Goodlet were prominent, the Forbes and the Goodlet families had many interactions. The connections between the families were ones of faith, church, Scottish origins, common ministry and ideals. In particular, by 1883, ‘Bessie’ Forbes was teaching Sunday School where John Goodlet had been the superintendent since 1877 and she was the Sustentation Collector in the district which included the Goodlet family. The Goodlets and the Forbes were both involved in the YWCA, local political activity, temperance organisations, the Ministering Children’s League, the Women’s Missionary Association, the Band of Mercy as well as the Trusteeship of the Ashfield Church property. (more…)
Mary Roberts nee Muckle (1804-1885), Property holder, Philanthropist and Publican.
Jane Muckle (1784-1834), who was the mother of Mary Roberts (nee Muckle), arrived in New South Wales on the Nile in December 1801 as an unmarried 17 year old convict. Some sources record that she had been convicted at Cork in August, 1796, and sentenced to 7 years servitude in the colony of NSW, but other accounts date her conviction as July, 1799, at Durham. On 25 June, 1804, Mary was born to Jane and the father was registered as a Thomas Rowley. There is no evidence that Jane and Thomas were married and nothing further is heard about him. Jane took the designation of Mrs Muckle and retained it until she married some twenty-two years later.
In July, 1806, Jane became a free person as she had completed her sentence and was recorded as living with Archibald McKillup. By 1810, Jane had obtained a ‘Beer License’ for an establishment in Phillip Street and while no longer holding a licence by 1825, she was still involved in the running of a public house with Archibald, probably the “Lord Nelson” in Phillip Street. Jane was experiencing financial success for in June 1823 she gained five 21 year leases on land in Phillip, Hunter and Elizabeth streets and in 1824 was able to make an interest free loan of £300 to Rev John Dunmore Lang for Scots Church. On 6 March, 1826, she married Archibald  and she died eight years later on April 12, 1834. Archibald’s death followed the next year on October 26, 1835, by which time Jane’s daughter Mary Muckle was running the public house. On Archibald’s death the Tavern’s fixtures were disposed of but Mary continued to own the tavern, which was leased to others, right up until her death some 50 years later.
Little is known of Mary’s early life. She became the heiress of extensive property holdings and was the object of some unwanted attention by suitors, one such proclaiming to her that ‘she had remained long enough unmarried, and could not do better than have him’. Mary’s stepfather was ill at this time and she informed the would-be-suitor ‘that her father was seriously unwell, and was disturbed by his loud talk, and begged him to drink his liquor and depart from the house, but which only served to induce him to continue his familiarity’. She, in response to this unwanted attention, gave ‘a becoming and spirited resistance’ resulting in the ardent would-be-suitor only becoming more aggressive and ‘calling her a _________ and using opprobrious and obscene expressions’. Mary then threw a jug of boiling water at him, the suitor was injured, and brought a charge of assault and battery against her. The jury found the case proven, but it would seem they thought the suitor deserved his fate for Mary only had to pay damages of a farthing. (more…)
George Augustus Frederick Lentz (1797-1883) Convict conman, Architect and co-founder of the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Sydney
Thomas Pattison is rightly credited with commencing a work that was to become the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC). George Augustus Frederick Lentz and his family, however, assisted Pattison in starting this work and their contribution, though of short duration, was significant. George was born to John and Elizabeth Lentz in London in 1797 and he became a musical instrument maker, a harpist and also played in a band. He kept up his musical activities all of his life and was thought by his family to have been a good musician having received a gold watch from King George IV for ‘his performances before him’. From George’s history, if he had a gold watch from his time in England, he most likely stole it for George was a thief and a conman.
At the age of 17 George Lentz, alias George Henry Douglas, was convicted at the Old Bailey in January, 1814, of the theft of a ‘silver watch and gold chain’ worth £4 and of forgery worth £138 in order to purchase a dressing case and gold scissars (sic) and other items. A newspaper recorded that Lentz
was taken into custody, at the Swan Inn, Knightsbridge, on his return in a gig, with a Lady – to the Lady (a woman of property) he had given the gold scissars, and she in return gave him as the old song says, “a far better thing,” it was “The ring from off her finger, Oh!”
The combined value of George’s fraudulent activity was a considerable sum for the time and he was found guilty and sentenced to hang, a sentence which was commuted to transportation for life to the colony of NSW. George arrived in Sydney on April 25, 1815, aboard the Indefatigable 2 and was sent to work for James Smith, a builder, at Parramatta. This appears to have been a stroke of good fortune for George as Smith taught him to be a carpenter and joiner. He worked with Smith for at least five years and was described by him as one who was ‘obedient to my order and his conduct was that of a sober and honest and industrious man’. In 1823, he was granted a Ticket of Leave for the district of Parramatta. The ticket was revoked in October 1826, however, as George was found in possession of a chisel, the property of William Clay, which had been stolen with other articles from the premises of Dr Dalhunty at Burwood. A further Ticket of Leave was granted in August 1827, and a conditional pardon was granted in September 1836. During this period George had worked on various building jobs earning praise for his work ‘for correctness in proportion, chasteness of design, and the very superior manner in which it is finished.’ It seems his past was not entirely behind him, however, as an angry partner, William Batman, claimed in a newspaper advertisement that George had absconded ‘after having received sums of money on account of work executed by both of us.’ (more…)