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ROBERT GRAY, MILITARY OFFICER & PASTORALIST (1839-1931)

This cover has been a challenge to unravel the manner in which it was addressed in order to confirm that the correct Robert Gray had been researched. Two of the postmarks were key to the certainty that I had identified the right man. One of these postmarks was legible, whereas the other one is still being conjectured. The cover is addressed to Robert Gray Esq., Post Office Caperville, Cleveland Bay, Queensland. The mauve 6d N.S.W. stamp has a ‘35' rays postmark of Goulburn and this was confirmed by the adjacent unframed GOULBURN/ OC 26/ 1870/ N.S. W (Type 1A). In addition there was a reception postmark of an unframed CAPE RIVER/ NO 11/ 1810/ QUEENSLAND (Type 1b, rated ‘4R’). There also were two manuscripts "Via Brisbane" and Oct 26th (Figure 1).

 

 

A close-up of the indistinct rare Cape River postmark is shown in Figure 2.

 

 

The reverse had transit marks of SYDNEY B/ OC 27/1870/ N.S.W and BRISBANE/ 2/ NO 1/ 70/ QUEENSLAND, and a contoversial Queensland postmark, dated NO 7/ 1870, which is of the Type 1b, identified by a red arrow (Figure 3).

 

 

A close up of the indistinct postmark is seen in Figure 4.

 

 

The Cape River Goldfields were situated 200 km west of Townsville but the alluvial goldfield only lasted one year, for by 1869 the goldfield was totally worked out, and the 2,500 diggers had moved on. The main centre of the field was the town of Capeville on the west side of the Cape River, 9 km from the present-day Pentland. The Cape River Diggings post office opened January 1, 1868 and it was called Cape River from 1869 until it was closed for the first time on December 31, 1876.

My guess is that the indistinct postmark of Figure 4 may be Hughenden (the largest close town, and with which Robert Gray was intimately involved) or Townsville which is adjacent to Cape Cleveland. Townsville was not gazetted until1865, but it included the area of Cleveland Bay. I strongly favour Townsville over Hughenden as the town named in this indistinct postmark for only the former has the Type 1b unframed postmark with dots at both sides of the town name, as well as a four-figured year, an example of which is shown in Figure 5.

 

 

Robert Gray a military officer and pastoralist, was born on 4 February 1839 at Hughenden Manor, West Wycombe, Bucks, England, eldest of eight children of Charles Gray, clerk, later clergyman, and his wife Agnes. Educated at Marlborough and at Brighton College, Robert joined the 97th Regiment of Foot in April 1857 as an ensign, and fought in India. He was granted six months leave, and visited Sydney in 1862. On 19 November at St Mark's Church of England, Alexandria, he married Charlotte (Lottie) Grayson, daughter of Rev.William Sowerby. Next year Gray resigned his commission and the couple returned to Sydney.

With his cousin Ernest Henry he sailed to Bowen Queensland and travelled inland to the Burdekin River, where he entered into partnership with Ernest at a station with 1800 sheep. He named the station Hughenden after the family property in England, and Lottie joined him. Gray bought out his cousin’s share in 1865 for a princely £4,999, and two of Robert’s brothers, Charles and Mowat became involved in the property which was also used for raising cattle. From 1874 to 1876 Robert took Lottie to Sydney, Goulburn and to England. In 1877 the area was surveyed for the town of Hughenden, and the railway reached there in 1887, making the transport of wool and livestock to market easier. In 1911 Robert and Lottie sold their property interests and they retired to live in England in 1912. They had no children, Lottie predeceased him and he remarried in 1921. Robert died on 24 March 1931 at Kensington, London. His picture is shown in Figure 6.

 

 

 

Addendum (March 2010):  Another cover has come to light for Robert Gray, most likely from the same person who sent the origial cover.   It is addressed Robert Gray Esqr, Post Office Cape River, Cleveland Bay , Queensland.  It has the same 'SIX PENCE' stamp cancelled with the Rays '35' and GOULBURN/ MY 12/ 1870/ N.S.W (Figure 7).

The reverse has 3 postmarks , from left to right,  a probable CAPE RIVER/ MY 24/ 1870/ QUEENSLAND, a transit SYDNEY/ MY 13/ 1870/ N.S.W and a more distinct  CAPE RIVER/ MY 2(4)/ (    )70/ QUEENSLAND (Figure 8).

  This paper was extracted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

 

 

 
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