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J. P. BEAR, VICTORIAN M. L. C. (1823 - 1889), & CHATEAU TAHBILK

This long blue cover was a part of 43 postal history covers of Victoria sent in the 1860s to the 1880s, all with various Laureate stamps, but only the front was shown, yet not described by the auction house. It chose it mainly because of the addressee, its registration with multiple oval ‘REGISTERED’ postmarks, a manuscript ‘2089' registration number, and the use of a pair of 2d lilac and a single blue ‘One Shilling’ laureates. There was a MELBOURNE/ 8L/ JN 21/ 75 postmark plus a vertically placed manuscript, which was not totally legible, except for “Fiji/ Attested Apia/ of documents to —/ ------/ in Fiji”. The cover was addressed to The Honble J.P. Bear, 3 Gladstone Terrace, Bligh St, Sydney (Figure 1).

John Pinney Bear was born in 1823 at Tiverton, Devonshire and he died 27 October 1889 at Tabilk, Victoria. His father’s name was also John and the family arrived at Port Phillip in 1841 and they set up business as Bear & Son, auctioneers, stock and station agents and horse salesmen in Melbourne, which the son continued after his father’s death in 1851. In 1851 he married Annette Eliza Williams in Melbourne and they had 4 sons and 5 daughters. The business was sold in ca. 1856-57 when John Pinney went to England, only to return to Melbourne in 1860.

He established the Melbourne Banking Company, of which he was the managing director. After unsuccessful squatting ventures he established the Tabilk vineyard on the Goulburn River in Victoria. He became a director of the National Bank and was the M,L,C, for the Southern electorate, Victoria in June 1863 until September 1878, when he retired and returned to England, where he settled for 10 years. He had been unsuccessful when he previously contested Central Province in 1860.

John Pinney was actively connected with the vineyards at Tabilk (Chateau Tahbilk, the ‘h’ being added in 1878 along with ‘Chateau’) for more than 25 years, and he had watched, if not directed, every step in the progress of the farm and vineyard, from the clearing of timber, the buying of the cuttings for the first plantings of the grapes in 1860, the building of cellars, fermenting floors, the placing of presses and vats, the buying of grape mills and seed for his pastures and crops. His had been the final responsibility for financing of both farm and vineyard.

When he returned from England for the last time, to die at Chateau Tahbilk on 27 October 1889 as a man in his mid sixties, he knew that he had produced wines that had won prizes abroad and at home. On his death, there was a partial neglect in the winery, but it was restored to its former glory by a Frenchman appointed by the then resident manager. John Pinney Bear was characterised as follows: a lively sense of dedication to his job, and an intensely human interest in his workers. He identified himself with life at the Chateau and in the surrounding district. A picture of John Pinney Bear is shown in Figure 2.

Two final points of interest were that although J.P. Bear did not have a separate article in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (A.D.B.), his eldest daughter, Annette Ellen Bear-Crawford (1853-1899), born in East Melbourne, educated abroad, and who became a leading force in the women’s movement in Australia, had a separate article in the A.D.B. In addition, I found no mention of any of John Pinney’s children having a direct involvement in Chateau Tahbilk.


 
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