Royal Reels: Gambling


I have always had, even as a schoolboy, an interest in Woolloomooloo, particularly how the name and its spelling runs smoothly off the tongue. As the assistant medical superintendent at Sydney Hospital for two years, one of my duties twice a week was to do medical rounds, at midnight, at the Sydney Eye Hospital, in Woolloomooloo. I was surprised to find, as I prepared this paper, that the possible Aboriginal meaning for the Sydney suburb was much in doubt, and, not very poetic, but included the following: from wullaoomullah, a young kangaroo; whirling around; and, in connection with the latter meaning, an attempt by Aborigines to pronounce the word ‘windmill’ [A.W. Reed: Aboriginal Place Names, 1998].

This mourning cover has a salmon 1d QV stamp of New South Wales and the postmark was applied well to the left of the stamp as an unframed WINDSOR/ JU 20/ 1872/ N.S.W [Type 1A cancel which was in use 1857-76]. It was addressed to Mr. P.R. Holdsworth, Wooloomooloo (sic) Bay, Sydney (Figure 1).

The reverse accentuates that it is a mourning cover and the flap has a black circle of a spray of flowers, as well as an unframed reception postmark of SYDNEY/ C/ JU 21/ 1872/ 5/ N.S.W. This is the earliest recorded date for the type shown as Fig. 98 in R. Tobin & A.E. Orchard’s The Postal History of Sydney, Volume 6, 1995, p. 32 which is described as being in use from 21 September 1875-30 October 1878 (Figure 2).

The remainder of this paper relies considerably on conjecture for Mr. Holdsworth’s Boat House has not been identified. However, on the 5 March, 1870, the following advertisement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘ Rowing Association – A Meeting interested in the advancement of amateur rowing and the formation of a Rowing Association, will be held on Monday next, at half-past 7 p.m. at the Oxford Hotel, King Street. Henry Freeman, Hon. Secretary pro tem.’ The meeting was attended by twenty-five gentlemen and “every one present was unanimously of opinion that the formation of a club for the purpose of improving and encouraging amateur rowers was much needed in Sydney.” A sub-committee was appointed to inquire into the cost of boats and to select a site for a boat shed.

His Excellency the Earl of Belmore, Governor of the Colony of N.S.W. consented to be the patron and sent a donation of £5. Less than a dozen of the twenty-five gentlemen were named and Holdsworth, was not named . On August 27 1870 there was the official opening of the Sydney Rowing Club which was situated at East Circular Quay. The main activities of the club did not remain for long at East Circular Quay, as “the heavy water traffic soon forced a move to a large two storey timber building at Woolloomooloo”. Unfortunately, this boathouse , containing a fleet of boats and valuable mementos, was totally destroyed by fire in March 1922. A new boathouse was constructed on the same site and officially opened in November of the same year. The new shed at Woolloomooloo is shown in Figure 3.

I posit that this Mr. Holdsworth was associated with the Rowing Club. There is evidence that a man of the same surname, Mr. William Holdsworth (1879-1937), a Member for Sydney of the Legislative Assembly, had an association with the area as licensee of the Cowper Wharf Hotel, Woolloomooloo (1920-24), as well as being one of the directors of Sydney Hospital (1925-28).

Categories: Mourning Covers