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HUGO MUECKE, GERMAN IMPERIAL CONSULATE, ADELAIDE, S.A.

This Western Australian Post Card has the Postage One Penny blue ‘Swan’ stamp posmarked with the duplex TOWN HALL FREMANTLE/ 6/ SP 23/ 98/ W.A. with the obliterator P.O cancelling the stamp. It is addressed to H. Mucke (sic) Esq., "German" Imperial Consulate, Adelaide, S.A. (Figure 1).

 

The reverse has two transit postmarks, FREMANTLE 3/ SP 23/ 98/ W.A. and SHIP MAIL ROOM/ 3/ SP 23/ PERTH/ W.A and a reception postmark G.P.O. ADELAIDE/ ( )/OC 2/ 98/ S.A. The black manuscript message is mainly in undecipherable German, except for the header of ‘Fremantle, Sept 22' and the signature of ‘Carl A.R. Zils’. There is a red manuscript date of 3.10.98, for either when seen, or to the date of reply (Figure 2).

I have found no information concerning the sender Carl A.R. Zils who would also appear to be of German origin and specific reference to the Fremantle Town Hall was unrewarding. The opposite pertains to Hugo Carl Emil Muecke (Mücke) who has considerable information about him at several Australian websites.

Hubert was born 8 July 1842 at Rathenow, near Berlin in Prussia (Germany), the oldest son of Carl and Emilie Muecke’s children. Dr Carl Muecke was a noted Lutheran Pastor, educationalist and intellectual, and he brought his family to South Australia on the 'Princess Louise' in 1849 when Hugo was 7 years old, following the uprisings of 1848. The family settled in Tanunda, South Australia where Hugo attended the high school. At the age of 16 he learned that the Port Adelaide firm of John Newman & Sons required the services of a shipping clerk with a knowledge of German, and his application was accepted. He threw himself into the commercial activities of his employer and improved his general education. Hugo was married in 1863 to Margaret Le Page.and they later had nine children.

Of German birth, Muecke became a naturalised British subject on 1 May 1866. This allowed him to become a partner with John Newman on 23 May 1866, just short of his 24th birthday. He was made a customs agent in his own right on 13 December 1872. When John Newman died in 1873. Hugo was appointed executor of the Newman Estate and liquidator of the partnership. Following the completion of his duties, he became the sole proprietor of the company and renamed it H Muecke & Co in September 1875. During his time H Muecke & Co became agents for many notable shipping and trading companies around the world. The company also became ship owners with interests in a number of coastal ketches.

Hugo Muecke figured prominently in the commercial and public life of South Australia. In 1877 he was appointed Vice-Consul of Germany and in 1883 Imperial German Consul, which post he held for the following 32 years until the commencement of World War I when he renounced his appointment. He was involved in the Chamber of Commerce for many years, serving as President 1885-1886. Muecke also served as a Director of many companies, including: BHP, board member in 1892 and chairman 1914; Bank of Adelaide; Adelaide Steamship company; and, National Life Assurance company.

In public life Muecke served as a Justice of the Peace and was involved in local government affairs, at various times being involved with the municipalities of Port Adelaide, Rosewater (Chairman) and Walkerville (Chairman). In 1903 he was elected to the South Australian Parliament, serving as a member of the Legislative Council for 7 years.

Following the outbreak of World War I there was considerable anti-German feeling in Australia. Following a raid upon BHP company offices by 'defence authorities' in November 1914, and despite no evidence of any offence being found, in early 1915 Muecke was forced to resign as Chairman of the Board of BHP. He resigned as a director later that year. In May 1915 he resigned from the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce after 35 years service on the committee. Hugo was interned in Fort Largs in April 1916.

After many of South Australia's leading citizens and businessmen pleaded for his release he was released into home detention under military custody. These events occurred almost 50 years after his naturalisation as a British subject, despite his vigorous protestations of loyalty, and the service of his youngest son as a surgeon in the British Army. The War greatly affected the fortunes of his family company, which lost the greater part of its business, not reviving until after the end of the War. Muecke retired in 1916 and was succeeded in the family business by two sons.

He had been active in the German Club in Adelaide and became a freemason in the early1850's. In 1874 he became the Right Worship Master of St, Andrew’s Lodge and in 1880 he became the Provincial Grand Master of the Scottish Constitution in South Australia. Forty five years after the formation of the Grand Lodge of South Australia, on 6 June 1929, Muecke died at the age of 87 years, after ailing for some time. Despite the vicissitudes of his later years Brother Muecke was not forgotten by his Masonic brethren for in April 1924 on the fortieth anniversary of the Grand Lodge he was acknowledged for his many contributions to Freemasonry. A picture of Hugo Carl Emil Muecke is shown in Figure 3.

 

 
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