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JACK’S DAY, NAVAL FORCES CHARITY, & 3 KNIGHTED BANKER -TREASURERS

This unusual cover reveals a World War One charitable fund for naval personnel and their families which was started on November 1, 1918 and which ran for several weeks in Australia. The cover has a green ½d and a red 1d KGV Head stamps postmarked with a patriotic roller cancel, HELP TO WIN THE WAR. The stamps partially obscure a printed blue "JACK’S DAY"/ By Authority of the Department of Repatri(ation)/ A FUND TO HELP THE MEN OF/ THE NAVY AND THE MERCANTILE MAR(INES). It has a caricature of a smoking sailor over JACK’S DAY/ NOV 1ST,1918, and the cover is addressed to Little Jack, 5 Hugh St, Ashfield (Sydney). The return address is listed as Dalton House, Pitt-street, (5th Floor), Sydney, and it has a ms. ‘31/10/ 1918'. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

 

It contained a receipt "JACKS DAY’/ November 1st/ (By authority of the Department of Repatriation)/No / 900/ 31st Octr, 1918/ Received from Little Jack/ the sum of Two Shillings and Six pence being donation for "Jack’s Day". Three prominent citizens were listed as Hon. Treasurers, Sir Thomas Dibbs, J.Russell French and Kelso King (Figure 2).

Another relevant item was found, namely an identification ‘tag’ worn by an ASSISTANT authorised to collect moneys for JACK’S DAY / NOV. 1ST 1918 (Figure 3).

I am surprised that I have not found any review article that is devoted to a description of Jack’s Day other than a somewhat disjointed description in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday 29 October 1918, page 6, which was as follows: "Jack’s Day. Message from Admiral Beresford. The secretaries of the Navy League yesterday received the following cablegram from Admiral Lord Charles Beresford: "Wish you every possible success for ‘Jacks’s Day’. I heartily approve of all the objects you intend to benefit."

"EXHIBITION OF PICTURES. An exhibition of 70 paintings, sketches and art photographs presented to the Jack’s Day Fund by the artists of Sydney will be opened in Canberra House by his Excellency the Governor this afternoon. The Exhibition will be open to-day, o-morrow and on Thursday. The pictures are to be disposed of by art union" (auction?).

"APPEAL TO EMPLOYERS. The organiser’s of the Jack’s Day procession are making a special appeal to the employers of cadets of the Royal Australian Naval Brigade to allow the lads permission to take part in the procession, 9 a.m. Friday".

"PREPARATIONS FOR JACK’S DAY, The effigy of the German Emperor should provide some entertainment at the village fair at the Broadway (Sydney) on Jack’s Day. This will be a giant figure, and will be subjected to whatever treatment the people may think worthy of. Finally in the evening it will be blown out of existence. The names of 6 entertainer are mentioned and Paramount Pictures will be shown at the village fair. His Excellency has promised to attend. Members of the Bondi and North Bondi Surf Clubs have combined to hold a monster surf and beach carnival. The program will include exhibitions of surfboard riding and sensational canoe races through the breakers".

"Notes: Jack’s Day, 1 November 1918 was for a fund to help the men of the Navy and Mercantile Marines (and their dependants). The day was said to have raised £187, 441, but this did not include the moneys raised by the 3 signees seen above".

 

The three men mentioned in Figure 2 who were shown as Honorary Treasurers for the Jack’s Day charity were bankers and all three are featured as entries in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Only Sir Thomas Allwright Dibbs was shown as a Knight, but the other two, Sir John Russell French and Sir George Eccles King, were similarly knighted presumably at a later date. Only a relatively short biography is included about all three men.

Sir Thomas Allwright Dibbs (1832- 1923): The death of Sir Thomas Allwright Dibbs took place at his residence, Point Piper, Sydney, on the 18th March, the Australian banking world has lost one of its most distinguished personalities.

Born at Sydney on the 31st October, 1832, he had reached the advanced age of over ninety years at the time of his death. As a boy of fifteen, he joined the service of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, and rose to the position of general manager, an appointment he held for forty-eight years. In 1915, after a service of sixty-eight years, he retired from the general managership, and was then appointed a director of the bank.

Apart from the strenuous work Sir Thomas Dibbs discharged as the head of a large banking organisation, he was identified with many patriotic and public movements, in connection with which his wide experience of commercial and financial matters was of considerable value. As the treasurer and trustee of various Church of England funds, he rendered valuable service, which was very much appreciated. A few years ago he handed over to the authorities his fine property, Graythwaite, North Sydney, as a home for disabled soldiers.

He was an enthusiastic yachtsman, owner of the steam yacht Ena for many years, and was loved by everyone who had the good fortune of coming in intimate relation with him. A photo of Sir Thomas Dibbs is seen in Figure 4.

Sir John Russell French (1847-1821): Through the death of Sir John Russell French, general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, Australia has lost a great citizen, who for the last quarter of a century has rightly been regarded as its foremost banker. Though indisposed during the previous weekend Sir John, with typical devotion to his work, insisted on attending the meeting of his board of directors held on the Tuesday prior to his end; so practically died at his post.

Son of a major in the Indian Army, young French came to Australia with his parents at the age of 11. Joining the service of the Bank of New South Wales in 1863 at the early age of 15, he quickly displayed unusual ability in the discharge of his duties, and won rapid promotion. After a time as accountant at Goulburn and acting manager at Crookwell, he was selected in 1872 to take up a position on the inspecting staff in New Zealand. When he was summoned back to Australia as an inspector in 1887 he returned as a proved man. His appointment as chief inspector followed in 1891, and it was in that position that he rendered signal assistance to the directors and general manager. On the 1st July, 1894, he succeeded to the position of general manager, which high office he held for exactly 27 years. During this period of control the aggregate figures of the balance-sheet of the Bank of New South Wales increased from 23 millions to 73 millions. Sir John was the last man to claim for himself full credit for this remarkable expansion. In October 1918 he was created a Knight of the British Empire in well-merited recognition of his eminent services to the Commonwealth. Sir John's advice upon financial affairs was constantly sought by the Governments of the day, both Federal and State. Sir John Russell French was survived by Lady French, two sons and one daughter. A picture of Sir John French is seen in Figure 5.

 

Sir Kelso King (1853-1943), businessman, was born on 30 December 1853 in Sydney, seventh child of Rev. George King and his wife Jane. He was educated at Calder House, leaving school young because of his father's financial difficulties. After working briefly as a jackeroo in Queensland, he returned to Sydney and joined the Bank of New South Wales in 1870. Transferring to the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney as a clerk on 27 November 1872, December 1877 Kelso King had become secretary, with a salary of £350, of the new Mercantile Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd which opened for business in Pitt Street on 10 January 1878. During its first six months King was the company's only employee: as well as setting up the office he issued 971 policies. He had a lifelong willingness and ability to work long hours at high pressure. Within a year he had established branches in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide but, proving unprofitable, they were closed by 1882; the company confined its operations to New South Wales until a branch was reopened in Melbourne in 1901.

King also became a director of many companies. A prominent Anglican, King was a lay canon of St Andrew's Cathedral and church warden of All Saints, Woollahra. Knighted in 1929, he was known as Sir Kelso. An active Freemason, King had been initiated on 7 June 1878 in the Prince of Wales Lodge, Sydney, and became worshipful master in 1885. On 13 November 1907 at Christ Church, South Yarra, Melbourne, he had married Alicia Martha Kirk (d.1956).

 

Far from being stuffy and self-righteous, King was invariably courteous and had a sense of fun and a charm of manner which endeared him to many friends. He died in his sleep at his home Kilbronae, Point Piper, on 7 February 1943, and was cremated. A picture of Sir Kelso King is seen in Figure 6.

With men like these three benefactors, the Jack’s Day was assured to have a successful fund raising for the men of the Navy, Mercantile Marines and their dependants.

 
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