Royal Reels: Gambling


This indistinct cover front only, introduces an early immigrant to Tasmania. It has a blue VDL imperforate ‘FOUR PENCE’ stamp cancelled by a manuscript three curved strokes and there is also a manuscript applied at the left border by the postmaster ‘Swansea/ 24/11/59′. It is addressed to Joseph Benson Mather, 98 Liverpool Street, Hobart Town (Figure 1).

His obituary was published in The Mercury, 19th May 1890, his death having occurred 2 days earlier. What follows is a considerable abbreviation of the text: The death of Joseph Benson Mather was reported on Saturday 17th May 1890, at the age of 76 years. He arrived in Tasmania in 1822, having been born in London in May 1814. His father Robert Mather was of Scottish birth who as a young man went to live in London where he became a freeman of the city and carried out a business as a hosier in Sun-street, Bishopgate-street (sic). Joseph’s mother was a daughter of the Rev. Joseph Benson, a man who was a friend and fellow worker of both John and Charles Wesley, in the great religious movement of the 18th century.

About 1820, the Colony of Van Diemen’s Land began to attract attention in England as a desirable place for settlers. Rev. William Horton, the Wesleyan minister in Hobart, urged his co-religionists to emigrate, hoping to raise the tone of the community ‘to neutralise some of the evils rampant in a penal settlement’. Robert Mather was induced to try his fortunes, so he sold his London business and set off with his wife and young children in the barque Hope, at the end of 1821. The ship was unseaworthy, had to return to England, and 3 months later the barque Heroine set sail. After a long voyage, they arrived at the Derwent River, VDL on 10th September 1822. Robert built a shop with goods that he had brought, at the corner of Elizabeth and Liverpool Streets, Hobart Town accepting wool and wheat in exchange for supplies. Joseph Benson Mather, the eldest son was 8 years old when they landed and he received his education a 2 schools in Hobart.

Robert desired a country life and after a few years received a land grant of 2,500 acres from the Governor, but his farming was unsuccessful and he returned to Hobart in 1836. With the financial help of friends, Robert started afresh in Liverpool Street in partnership with his son, Joseph Benson as a woolen drapier and hosier, and it began to prosper. Up to this time the family were Wesleyan, but they came under the influence of the Quakers, and Joseph Benson Mather with other members of his family joined the Society of Friends. Joseph devoted the rest of his life to the service of that religious body. From 1836, with the exception of a short time in Sydney, Joseph’s energies were wholly absorbed in his business and religion in Tasmania. He had a retiring disposition and never took any part in public affairs.

In spite of frequent ill health Joseph found frequent opportunity to perform religious and benevolent work and to pay occasional visits to the other colonies in connection with the religious work of the Society. In 1874 he took his son Joseph Francis Mather (1844-1925, who was born in Hobart) into partnership in the business which then carried on in the name of J.B. Mather & Son. An advertisement for ‘J.B. Mather & Son, Tailors, Clothers and Hatters’, ‘Shirts Made to Order’ and ‘Ready-Made Clothing, Hosiery, Gloves, Ties, Braces’ as seen in Walch’s Almanac 1876, and it is shown in Figure 2.

Joseph senior gradually withdrew from active management which he left to his son, giving more time to his benevolent work, particularly in the area of education of the Quaker children. He had success in establishing the Friends’ High School, a success far above his expectations. He had several attacks of ‘defective action of his heart’, and with the addition of influenza, within three days he died at noon on Saturday 17 May 1890.

Joseph Benson Mather had married in 1842 a daughter, Anna Marie, of Mr. Francis Cotton of Swanport, and Joseph was survived by 4 children, one son Joseph Francis, who continued their joint business until he sold out in 1912, and 3 daughters. A picture of Joseph Benson Mather is seen in Figure 3 .

Additional information on his son and partner, Joseph Francis Mather can be found at the internet site of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Please see his father Andrew Mather & Co at this website