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DRAYTON & GARSON, MELBOURNE UNDERTAKERS & EMBALMERS

Why would anyone send such a postcard to a friend? Perhaps because of the historical nature of the horse-drawn funeral carriages, but this may have been the norm in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century? The undated postcard gives no clue as to its publisher, and it has the pink 1d QV ‘Postage’ stamp of Victoria cancelled with a wavy VICTORIA roller postmark. The receiver of the postcard, Mrs. F. Treyvaud has an interesting address of ‘Marconi’, Pt. Lonsdale, via Queenscliff, Victoria, and the message penned by the sender ‘R.G.’ reads: Dear E. Just a line to say I will not be driving to meet you tomorrow, as buggy is in dock. If I do not get to the boat, you go to Flinders St by train, then get tram out here and we will watch for you, R.G. As an after-thought, at the heading of the note, there is an addition: You can get train ticket to town on boat (Figure 1).

With a reasonable presumption, the friend is to make her way from Port Lonsdale (green arrow) near Queenscliff (red arrow) to Melbourne, and in one short message, we have mention of several forms of transportation: buggy, boat, train and tram, as well as the expectation that the card will reach the friend in one day! (Figure 2).

 

The picture of the funeral parlour of ‘DRAYTON & GARSON, Estd. 1881, Economic Undertakers’, with five Funeral Carriages, each drawn by 2 horses, requires no further words to describe the scene (Figure 3).

This firm of undertakers has resisted my attempts to research the named proprietors even though the firm was very active in at least 3 centres in Melbourne from 1881 as Undertakers and Embalmers at 177 High Street Malvern and Prahran. The firm is still listed as Drayton, Garson and Slaights at 339 Warrigal Road, Burwood 3125, Victoria. I had been unsuccessful in obtaining anything more than death notices about numerous deceased at Drayton & Garson on the National Library of Australia beta site, when the following message newly opened up at The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) dated Friday 4 July 1913, on page 8: "HE WAS NOT DEAD/ FUNERAL NOTICE OBJECTED TO. / UNDERTAKER AND DENTIST./ "DAMAGE IN REPUTATION AND BUSINESS."/ JUDGE NONSUITS THE PLAINTIFF / Melbourne, July 3 (1913). (Figure 4).

I will summarize the legal proceedings: A case of most unusual nature was heard before Judge Box in the County Court to-day. The plaintiff was William Arthur John Branston, dentist, and the defendant was Frank Markland Garson, undertakers, 177 High Street, Pahran and Malvern. The plaintiff claimed £19 19shillings damages "for the defendant falsely and maliciously wrote and published, of and concerning the plaintiff, and caused to be published in the ‘Argus’ newspaper of January 1, 1913, the following entry, namely: ‘Branston - The friends of the late Mr. Arthur Branston are informed that his remains will be interred in the Necropolis, Springvale, leaving the mortuary Station, Princes-bridge this day January 1 at 2.10 pm.....from Dayton & Garson. Meaning that the plaintiff was dead, and was to be buried, in consequence wherof the plaintiff had been greatly damaged in his reputation and business."

A further complaint was that Branston had been subjected to ridicule. The judge stated that he had been dead once himself for it had been reported in The Times that he had drowned. The lawyer for the plaintiff cited a similar American case where the plaintiff had won three dollars. Another complaint was entered re the burial in the Necropolis, "for decent people go to the cemetery". There was considerable frivolity in the court about the to-an-fro comments from the judge and the lawyer for the plaintiff. The judge ruled that there had been no damage to the dentist’s reputation and there was no libel, with no cause for any action at all.

I don’t know why the advertisement was placed in the Argus, and I recognise that scanty information was provided about one of the firm’s proprietors, but this legal case gave me an opportunity to show this wonderful postcard!

Addendum (July 2009): The sender of the postcard was identified as ‘R.G’ and there is a very faint possibility that a Garson family member was the sender of the card from Melbourne. When we were able to identify Mrs, F. Treyvaud as the recipient (she having a first name beginning with ‘E’) who lived in a house named ‘Marconi’, we found that there was a very strong association of Port Lonsdale/Queenscliff, Victoria with the Marconi name, as follows: "The first radio transmission from the Australian mainland occurred between Point Lonsdale-Queenscliff, Victoria and Devonport Tasmania on July 12, 1906 from a station erected by the Marconi Wireless Co. Ltd. A memorial to Marconi is located on the foreshore in Royal Park, just off Point Lonsdale Road, opposite Anderson Street and adjacent to the oval. A special train was organised to take dignitaries from Melbourne to Queenscliff (including the Governor of Victoria, Sir Reginald Talbot and Ministers of the Victorian Parliament), as seen in Figure 5.

This information helps to date the postcard to 1906 or later, for presumably the Treyvaud property was named ‘Marconi’ after this important event.

 
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