Welcome to AusPostalHistory.com

J.B. CURRAN, AUCTIONEER, LAND VALUER, & PRINCESS MELIKOFF, HOBART

The cover is addressed to Mr. J.B. Curran, Auctioneer & Land Valuer, Hobart, Tasmania. The blue 2d QV stamp of New South Wales is franked with an illegible postmark, but fortunately there is another one which clearly shows that it is MULWALA/ JY 11/ 05/ N.S.W, and the reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

Somewhat surprisingly, to-date, no comprehensive biography has been found for John Bury Curran, nor an obituary, and the Cyclopedia Tasmania (1900) simply lists his name twice. However the best source of information for him is that gold mine of information written by David McNamee the ‘Catalogue and Handbook of Tattersall’s Covers’, Sydney (2006) on pages 56-58. He has a cover very similar to the above, for J.B. Curran is addressed also as Auctioneer and Land Evaluator, Hobart. The ‘TWO PENCE’ stamp of Victoria is cancelled with an unframed duplex of YARRAWONGA/ OC 14/ 05/ VICTORIA and the stamp is obliterated with the barred numeral ‘860' (Figure 2).

MacNamee also has another cover addressed toJ.B. Curran which has a strip of 3 of the 2d Tasmanian pictorials plus a single 1d pictorial on a registered cover as shown by the large ‘R’ in a circle and 2 registration numbers ‘1519' and ‘1621'. The stamps are cancelled BEACONSFIELD/ DE 20/ 02/ TASMANIA,and it is addressed J.B.Curren (sic) Collins Street, Hobart (Figure 3).

Another 2 great features that MacNamee’s book has is a short feature of the information he had found on the addressee J.B. Curran as well a listing of 16 various aliases and different addresses that were used in order to circumvent the Post Office’s prohibition of mail intended for the Tattersall’s sweepstakes lotteries. Both of these important pieces of information are shown in Figure 4.

Furthermore, Curran, like other Hobart persons also used a single or multiple members  of his family as ‘drop sites’ for the Tattersall’s mail and he shows a cover sent to Curran’s daughter, Miss Ida Curran, but it was addressed as Miss Ida Currie.

Further research came up with 2 pieces of surprising information. The first was found in an archived ‘Evening Post’, 15 October 1904, derived from a ‘Press Association’ at a Government of New Zealand website, related to the will of the late Mr. George Adams of Tattersall’s fame. The total of money was not revealed, but the amount of money in the second para spoke of one- tenth amounts to 5 individuals and one-20th amounts to 8 individuals, and one person of relevance was John Bury Curran. This money was only that derived from the ‘prize sweep consultation business’, and did not include ‘George Adam’s properties in New South Wales and elsewhere other than Tasmania’. There was other information about George Adam’s earlier life that I have not seen before.

So where did Princess Melikoff come in? Pauline Curran was born in Hobart on 9 February 1903. The daughter of John Bury Curran and Elizabeth Prosser, she was the youngest of 10 children. She was named after a successful racehorse owned by her father. Who found that he had inherited money from the estate when George Adams died. Pauline remained a wealthy woman throughout her life an was able to leave a substantial legacy herself.

She had been engaged to an aide-de-camp to the Governor of Tasmania, but he rejoined his regiment in England, and did not honour his betroval. Curran died in 1921 leaving his estate to the support of his wife and his youngest daughter Pauline (until her marriage). On the death of his wife, his estate was divided equally amongst his children.

Back in the 1920s, Pauline Curran, one of the subsequent beneficiaries of the George Adams estate, used her inherited wealth gained by her father, J.B. Curran from his one-twentieth share of the Adam’s estate. She gained entrée to London society and searched therein for a husband. Pauline was getting on in years - she was in her thirties when she met Prince Maximilian Melikoff, an impoverished Russian aristocrat who'd fled to Britain after the revolution in 1917. She supplied the money, he supplied the title. But there was nothing disreputable about their union; the courtship took place under the chaperonage of Pauline's mother, and was followed by the poshest wedding Hobart had seen in years, well, it was probably the poshest wedding ever! It certainly created a huge stir and drew enormous crowds of excited onlookers to St David's Cathedral, Hobart on 20 January, 1926. The marriage was a ‘Royal Event’, even though the Prince was not heir to a throne, and had no money.

Pauline and her Prince lived most of the rest of their lives in Monte Carlo, with visits to London and Tasmania. In Monte Carlo he eventually sank into alcoholism, ill health and premature death. But at least he wasn't a gambling man, so her fortune was not frittered away in a nearby casino. In fact, she retained both her title and her fortune until her death in 1988, whereupon she left most of her money to Greenpeace and the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and the Environment. A curious choice for a beneficiary, you might think, but Princess Melikoff was a passionate advocate of wildlife conservation and animal rights. Most of the last 2 paras were found at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2008/06/24/2284591.htm , as well as the great photo of the Tasmanian Princess in Figure 5.

Addendum (October 2011):  A further J.B. Curran cover had a blue 2d N.S.W. stamp postmarked with a duplex SYDNEY/ SP 9/ 5 45 PM/03/ 4 with N.S.W. obliterator, had an address other than those listed above of 'Tattersall's Chambers, Hobart' (Figure 6).

 
Copyright 2000-2016