Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover has an advertisement for the company of W.E. Bramble & Sons and it was sent by airmail to Messrs. S.E. Higgins & Co. in London, England. The strip of three brown Kookaburra stamps were cancelled with a roller postmark NEWCASTLE/ 5-PM/ 24 JLY/ 1950/ N.S.W./ AUST with the slogan POST EARLY/ IN THE DAY. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

Brambles took its name from Walter Edwin Bramble, who arrived in Sydney with his English parents in 1858 when he was less than one year old. When Walter was fifteen, he and his brothers became river traders, supplying settlers in the growing Hunter River area of N.S.W. with meat, fruit, vegetables and dairy produce. In 1875, at the age of 18, Walter established a butchering business. He was a “cut up and deliver” butcher, who transported the meat to customers by boat or horse and cart. Two years later, he had saved enough money to move his business to the rapidly growing port town of Newcastle. Walter gradually expanded the transport part of his business, carrying meat and other produce for Newcastle’s butchers and growers. The diversification was successful and in 1890 he began a carrier service between Newcastle and Sydney. W.E Bramble & Sons (Walter junior, Alan and Milton) began advertising with the slogan: Our Motto – Keep Moving. The advertising logo at the top of their invoices is shown in Figure 2.

In 1915 Broken Hills Proprietary (BHP) opened its steelworks in Newcastle. This was also an important development for Bramble’s, the company helping to reclaim low-lying areas of land for the steelworks after works began in 1913 and establishing a relationship that was to expand enormously. Bramble’s, true to its motto, kept moving. The company acquired two steam lorries in 1911, motor trucks during World War I and became a truck and bus distributor in the 1920s. In 1925 the private company W.E. Bramble & Sons Limited was formed, operating as carriers, materials handlers, street cleaning and earth moving contractors, customs and shipping agents, automotive engineers, motor distributors, real estate investors, stevedoring contractors, colliery proprietors, quarry masters, royal mail contractors and demolition contractors.

Walter Bramble died in 1930 and his son, Walter Bramble jnr., took over the company. Bramble’s was hit hard by the Great Depression, particularly its automotive business, but emerged better than many others due to its considerable real estate assets. In 1937 Bramble’s won a major excavation contract at Port Kembla for Australian Iron and Steel Limited, a subsidiary of BHP. From the onset of Word War II in 1939, Bramble’s staff and machinery were closely linked to the war effort, moving materials and constructing foundations for airstrips and army installations as well as ensuring cargo was on the wharves for loading on to ships. Brambles continued to grow after World War II and became a modern, diversified company in the 1950s.

In 1954 W.E Bramble & Sons (Transport) Company was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and in 1956 Bramble’s established a subsidiary operation at Port Kembla, where it provided transport and industrial services for BHP’s operations. When World War II ended, the US Army left the Australian Government a huge amount of handling equipment – about 1,000 machines, including forklift trucks and cranes, and 60,000 wooden pallets. The Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool (CHEP) became a highly successful enterprise and, in the early 1950s, the Government decided to sell it. The acquisition of CHEP in 1958 was to have a huge impact on Bramble’s. Bramble’s changed its name to Brambles Industries Limited in 1958 and, in June of the following year, moved its head office from Newcastle to 50 Miller Street, North Sydney.

The Bramble family figured predominately in the annals of the Ironclads Cricket Club. Walter Bramble gained his love for the game on the village greens around Hinton, N.S.W. and brought it with him when he settled in Newcastle. Bramble was largely responsible for keeping the Ironclads together when municipal cricket sounded the death-knell for some of the older clubs. His sons, Walter, Alan and Milton, carried on the tradition until well into the 1900’s and starred in many fine wins.

Quite a remarkable company with humble beginnings as an itinerant butcher!