Royal Reels: Gambling


The printed to private order newspaper wrapper was headed WILLDER & COMPANY’S/ MONTHLY GUIDE/ ON INVESTMENTS OF THE DAY and it has a printed rose ‘Half Penny’

Victoria stamp, cancelled with a duplex MELBOURNE/ 18/ MR 3/ 91 with the VICTORIA obliterator on the stamp. According to the vendor the year was 1887, and by this date was when the 1885-99 ½d “Fergusson & Mitchell” wrappers were changed in colour from grey-lilac to pink, rose or carmine. The wrapper was addressed to The Hon N Fitzgerald, National Trustees Co., Collins St., City (Melbourne), and the reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

Nicholas Fitzgerald, politician, brewer and pastoralist, was born on 7 August 1829 in Galway, Ireland, the eighth son of Francis Fitzgerald, brewer, and his wife Eleanor. In 1845 Nicholas entered Trinity College, Dublin, studied law in 1848 and in 1849 won a scholarship to Queen’s College in Galway. In 1852 he turned to commerce, partly in Ceylon and India, and arrived in Melbourne in 1859. He joined his brother Edward who had just started the Castlemaine brewery. In 1875 they opened a brewery in South Melbourne. In 1885 they converted to a public company, the Castlemaine Brewery Co. Melbourne Ltd, selling for £75,000;. They extended business to Newcastle and Brisbane in 1887 and to Adelaide next year. Nicholas was managing director from 1892 till 1906 when, in the great amalgamation of breweries, he became a director of Carlton and United Brewery. Perhaps Nicholas Fitzgerald used the mailed Willder’s guide to manage his finances.

In 1863 Fitzgerald was appointed a magistrate and in 1864 was elected for North-Western Province to the Legislative Council. As a councillor until 1906 he never accepted office though offered the ministry of Defence in the Patterson government. He was a brilliant orator with clear ideas on important political issues. He was a member of the National Australasian Convention in Sydney in 1891, as shown in a wood carving printed in the Sydney Mail on 14 March 1891. The members of the Convention were numbered on a chart, and Fitzgerald was # 24, shown by a green arrow (Figures 2 & 3).

In 1891 and in 1894 he represented Victoria at the Colonial Conference in Ottawa, Canada, where he was staunchly imperialistic. In 1903 he became the Legislative Council’s chairman of committees. With large pastoral interests in the 1880s and 1890s in New South Wales and Queensland, Fitzgerald’s main station was Fort Bourke on the Darling River, but drought forced him to sell many of his holdings. He was chairman of the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. in the 1890s and a director of the Manchester Fire Assurance Co. and the Bellambi Coal Co.

A prominent Catholic layman, Fitzgerald was awarded the papal knighthood of St Gregory by Pope Leo XIII. He often spoke at public gatherings connected with the Church and was an enthusiast for completing St Patrick’s Cathedral. His commonest theme was Catholic education. ‘Justice’, he said, ‘has been put aside for power, but no wrong can be sanctified by success … The sense of that injustice will never be removed until the law is altered’. He was at his best when speaking to his fellow countrymen on subjects appealing to their native sympathies. In 1863 Fitzgerald married Marianne, the eldest daughter of John O’Shanassy, and they had seven sons. He died at his home, Moira, Alma Road, St Kilda, on 17 August 1908, survived by his widow. A picture of Nicholas Fitzgerald is seen in Figure 4.

The first reference to Derbin Willder was found in Directories and he was listed as a draper in 1862, located at 91 High Street, St Kilda. The next entry was in 1867 when he is listed as a share broker and commission agent at 3 Collins St. West with a personal residence in Elwood St., St. Kilda. There are multiple additional listings, variously as Willder, D. & Sterne, C.H., Willder, D. & Griffiths, G.S. (1891: Stock & share brokers, land, estate and share brokers and later auctioneers) and by 1890 he is also listed as Willder & Company, stock and share brokers, land, estate and financial agents, 333 Collins St., next Commercial Bank in 1890; the last entry for the company is in 1892 when mortgage brokers is added to the company’s title.

Derbin Willder’s death was announced in Melbourne by electric telegraph on June 21 1892. “It was announced this afternoon that Mr. Derbin Willder, for many years a member of the Stock Exchange, Melbourne, died on the voyage from Queensland, whither he had gone a short time ago in ill health. To-day … a telegram was (received) from Mrs. Wilder… that her husband fell overboard on the 18th instant. The body was not recovered. The accident must have occurred shortly after the Aramac had left Brisbane. Acting on medical advice 3 weeks ago Mr. Wilder left by the Aramac for Brisbane accompanied by his wife. His condition becoming rapidly worse he was advised to return home as soon as possible. His career was very prosperous till two years ago, when he lost very heavily by a fall in tramway shares and the collapse of (the Melbourne) land boom. These reverses seriously affected his health.”

“He was one of the founders of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, and several times unsuccessfully attempted to enter Parliament. The late Mr. Willder was of a very charitable disposition. In 1888 he distinguished himself by the share he took in collecting £10,000 in ten days towards the hospital. He was thrice married, and leaves a widow and six children.” A report in the Brisbane Courier of 24 June 1892 gave further information about the night of his drowning when he was seen by the chief steward at 11.30 p.m. who had helped get him ready for bed and gave him his medication, and a half hour later he was seen by a fellow passenger wandering on deck in his night shirt. Only a towel, identified as belonging to Willder’s cabin, was found on netting under the ship’s rail.

This paper gives me an opportunity to show 2 postcards, both business-related which speak to a different time in regards to privacy and security about financial matters. The first was sent from Sydney to Melbourne in 1888, and the second from Warrnambool, Victoria to Melbourne in 1889. The scans speak for themselves! (Figures 5-8).

I acknowledge the wonderful research by Lucy Shedden who responded in 3 days over Christmas 2008 to my email to the State Library of Victoria re Derbin Willder. She is a librarian, Australian History and Literature Team. The information on Nicholas Fitzgerald was obtained from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Categories: Business