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THE FRENCH in NEW SOUTH WALES: LOUIS GILLE & JEAN ESCOTTIER, SYDNEY

The first cover was a printed envelope sent from Louis Gille & Co., of Sydney, 73-75 Liverpool Street and of Melbourne, 300-302 Lonsdale St., The addressee was printed in large black letters: FRANCE/ Messrs LOUIS GILLE et Cie/ Fabricants de Bronzes et d’Orfevrerie d’Eglise/ 37 Quai Claude Bernard./ LYONS. The routing of the letter is given as Per P & O. R.M.S. "Mongolia" Via Brindisi. There are a total of six New South Wales stamps, a pair and single blue 2d QV and 2 single green ½d QV stamps. The postmark is almost illegible, but it went through the Registration Branch, at Sydney/ DE 7/ 1904. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

The second cover was differently printed on a lighter coloured cover and the Sydney firm was not identified on the front. It was sent to the same firm and the identical address as in the first cover at Lyons, France but was routed per P & O.C. R.M.S. "Himalaya" via Brindisi. The five N.S.W. stamps (red 1d x2, blue 2½d, orange 6d, brown 1 shilling, which totalled 1 shilling 10½ pence) were cancelled RAILWAY STATION/ MY 1/ 7 05 PM/ 06/ SYDNEY. The reverse was not seen but the owner stated it was back stamped RHONE with an illegible date and there was an identifying sticker suggesting that Louis Gille & Co. represented The Australian General Catholic Depot (Figure 2).

Information concerning Louis Gille & Co. (Sydney and Melbourne) is limited on the internet, and my first finding of the company of that name was for a printer/publisher in 1896, located at 586 George Street, Sydney. I presume that it was th forerunner of the Sydney firm on the two covers. Some French settlers opened small businesses and Louis Gille & Co., an importer of church requisites and religious books was run by Louis Gille and Jean Escottier in Sydney at 73-75 Elizabeth Street. They published The Australian Catholic Penny Prayer Book, an extensive collection of English and Latin Hymns for general use at evening devotions, approved by His Grace, the Archbishop of Sydney, the printer of this book being R.M. Baxter of Sydney in 1921, which had 228 pages. The firm by the same name in Lyons, France was even harder to obtain information on, and the covers showed they were makers of bronze objects used in religious services in France.

My only recollection of a Frenchman’s name associated with Australia was La Perouse. At the same time as the First Fleet of convicts arrived under the command of Captain Arthur Philip, a second fleet under the command of the French explorer Francois de Galup, Compte de La Perouse was seeking shelter in Botany Bay. The French camped on the north shore of the bay, and in a short time Father Receveur died and was buried in the place now called La Perouse. The French ships La Boussole and L’Astrolabe sailed out to sea and vanished completely, as shown by the plaque at La Perouse (Figure 3).

The earliest records held by State Records relating to the French are contained in the Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825. Included are letters that relate to a number of French vessels visiting Sydney, such as the Surprize asking for permission to go sealing in 1802. Other references include a request from Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet to make a hydrographic plan of the "roadstead" at Sydney Harbour in 1819. A Frenchman who played an important role in the development of commerce and banking in the colony was Prosper de Mestre. He was the second person to be denized (an alien admitted to residence and certain rights of citizenship) in September 1825 and there are numerous references to his business activities in the Colonial Secretary's Papers.

Later records include names on petitions and letters from the likes of Jules Joubert, Didier Numa Joubert, Charles Edward Jeaneret and Gabriel de Milhau. The Hunters Hill region was known as the French Village during the 1850s. Translations of communications from the French Consul, 1881 includes information on French nationals living in and visiting New South Wales. Pasteur correspondence, 1888-89, includes copies of telegrams from M. Louis Pasteur to two French scientists, Drs Germont and Loir, who were conducting experiments for the Rabbit Commission on an island in Sydney Harbour.

There were only small numbers of French-born convicts transported to New South Wales. Well-known examples include James Larra and Francois Girard. Larra, a French Jew, arrived with the Second Fleet on the Scarborough and was granted the first liquor licence in Parramatta in 1798. Girard was transported on the Agamemnon in 1820 and received a conditional pardon in 1825. He is supposed to have influenced the naming of Napoleon Street, Darling Harbour. Lesser known examples include seaman Francois Fieudard, a native on Toulon, who was tried in Cornwall and transported on the Admiral Gambier in 1809.

In 1840 the Buffalo arrived in Sydney with 58 French convicts from Lower Canada. These prisoners were interned near present-day Concord, Sydney resulting in the naming of French Bay, Canada Bay and Exile Bay. France used New Caledonia as a penal colony from 1864. This caused some alarm among the governments of the Australian colonies who sought reassurances from the French that measures were in place to prevent escaped convicts and pardoned convicts from reaching Australia.

The French arriving in the colony either paid their own passage or worked as crew. Naturalization was the means by which non-British subjects gained the privileges and rights of citizenship held by British subjects or people born in New South Wales. Any non-British subject who wished to vote or own land needed to become naturalized. Naturalization records are an important source as they can provide both the date of arrival and the name of the ship. Examples of naturalized French subjects were Jules Joubert who migrated to Sydney in 1841 and was naturalized in 1859. He was an early developer in the Hunters Hill region and established a ferry service in 1860. In 1878 Joubert was awarded the Chevalier, Legion of Honour (France). Other examples include Hortense Modeste Angelique Mustiere from Normandy who was naturalized in 1864. She married Francois Joseph Adam, a Frenchman from Paris, who received an early grant of naturalization in 1861 and is listed as a "private gentleman" in his memorial. They settled in the Grafton region.

Insolvency and bankruptcy records can be helpful and the following were such examples: Charles Lamounerie Dictus Fattorini, a naturalized Frenchman and practicing medical doctor in Port Macquarie was declared insolvent in 1852. Arthur Dubois, originally from Bordeaux, was declared insolvent in 1874. He started out as a contract worker and became a grazier in the Liverpool Plains area. Deceased estate and Intestate records can identify other French subjects: There is a Deceased Estate File for Gabriel de Milhau with a detailed account of his estate and houses in Ashfield, Sydney.

French migration to New South Wales remained limited over the years. There are few French-born residents listed in the 1841 Census. The 1891 and 1901 Census Collectors' books listing householders are available. A number of French people can be found in various professions, including French teachers (Mrs E. Everiet and Edward Perier), wool trading houses and merchants (Louis August Joseph Lambelin), and police officer (Jules Pierre Rochaix). Artists such as Lucien Henry can also be found in various series.

I am indebted to a N.S.W. Government website "Archives in Brief: French Migration and Settlement in N.S.W.), for most of this paper.

I would appreciate any help that readers may be able to give me on the Sydney company of Louis Gille & Co.

Addendum ( April 2010):  Help did come from Bryan Roberts of Australia who had bought several covers similar to the two in this paper.  He had found an archived  New Zealand newspaper the New Zealand Tablet which had multiple advertisements from 1899 until 1905 inserte byd Louis Gille & Co. from the  Sydney  and Melbourne addresses shown on the covers.  The most impressive advert stated that the company was "By Special Appointment  Suppliers to His Holiness Pius X, as shown in Figure 4.

Whereas most of the other advrtisements were extensive lists of religious books, there were 2 others that gave a short precis on  a particular book.  One was about St. Francis of Assisi and it is shown in Figure 5.

The next book was about Goffine's Devout Instructions.  On the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holydays, and it was described as The Best, The Cheapes and the most Popular Edition (Figure 6).

 

Addendum (July 2910):  A similar printed envelope to the others was sent from Sydney with N.S.W. stamps totaling 11x the rate at 2 shillings 3 pence half penny.  The late fee was paid with a 2 pence half penny stamp (Figure 7).

The reverse had a label from the firm on the flap (Figure 8).

 Addendum (September 2010):  A registered cover was sent from Sydney with an added blue 2d stamp of N.S.W., Per Orient Co. R.M.S. "Omrah" to Messieurs Louis Gille & Cie, 37 Quai Claude -Bernard Lyons, France on May 10 1910  (Figure 9).

 
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