Royal Reels: Gambling


The printed to private order wrapper was produced for the TASMANIAN MAIL, HOBART and it had two embossed QV stamps of Tasmania, a pink ‘ONE PENNY’ and an orange ‘HALF PENNY’ incorrectly addressed to Mr. E.A. Pavett (Correct: Pavitt), Sandakan, North Borneo (Figure 1).

The reverse had a written message probably addedby  a co-worker collector of covers and wrappers which read: Dear Mr. Pavitt, Would you mind letting me have this wrapper as (it) happens to be one of that (——–) class of stamp collectors. With thanks yours sincerely, C.F. T—— (Figure 2).

I recognized that the real appeal of this wrapper was the rarity of the address, Sandakan, North Borneo. The Tasmanian Mail, Hobart was issued by a Tasmanian paper family, the Davies. The father, John Davies founded the Hobart Mercury and his 2 sons, John George and Charles Ellis Davies founded the weekly Tasmanian Mail which later became the Illustrated Tasmanian Mail. Volume 1 No. 1 appeared in 1877 and the last recorded was Vol. 44 No. 2243 on March 31, 1921. The publisher was Davies Brothers, Limited.Almost certainly Pavitt was reading this magazine to keep in touch with the Tasmanian news.

Imagine my surprise when I came across a second identical wrapper when I was browsing through Stamps and Postal History of Tasmania by Walter Tinsley 1986, Roy. Phil. Soc. London. The copy was again addressed incorrectly to Pavett at Sandakan, North Borneo, and the P.T.P.O. wrapper had the embossed ½d and 1d QV Tasmanian stamps. Neither copy was dated, but the orange ½d and 1d red wrapper was in use from 1891, as described on p. 174 (Figure 3).

As a non historian of families, I am amazed at the volume of research that is recorded for the Pavitt family. For the most part I will restrict myself to the direct lineage leading up to Ernest Alfred Pavitt, followed by his issue.

The British migrants, including the Pavitts sailed on the Monarch. The ship ran into heavy weather and the arrival of the Monarch was a definitive moment in the history of Akaroa, bringing the first party of British settlers to the area. The journey had gone very well until the Monarch was off to Tasmania, for here the passengers discovered they were running short of provisions. The wind refused to blow the ship to Hobart for fresh supplies. On the 27th March 1850 they made the heads of Akaroa Harbour, but the wind was unfavorable, and in an almost starving condition they were compelled to lie to for almost a week before a wind arose  taking them into the harbour. On 2 April 1850 they entered the heads at about 7am. Among the passengers who decided to stay on in Akaroa were the Pavitt party, John and Elizabeth with their 8 sons, three daughters and Samuel Farr, the eldest daughter’s fiancé. The sectional map of the South Island of New Zealand, where Akaroa is. is shown by a green dot and Christchurch is underlined in green and the historic Pavitt Cottage is shown by a purple dot (Figure 4).  

John Pavitt was born in Essex, U.K. in 1794 and died in 1865 at Akaroa, N.Z. He married Sarah Mumford (1799-1823) in 1819 in Essex, and after her death, he married her sister, Elizabeth Mumford in 1825 in London. His oldest son, John was already married with a family, and they remained in England. A picture of John Pavitt who migrated to New Zealand is seen in Figure 5.

Francis Pavitt (John’s son of relevance) was born in Epping, England in 1834 and was only 15 when he landed at Akaroa. This makes the assertion found at the Pavitt Family website somewhat questionable that “he was a Civil Engineer in London before emigrating to N.Z.” He married Annette, daughter of John Cuff on 4 October 1855. He became a magistrate in Te Aroha and learned to speak the Maori language. He was appointed as a Justice of the Peace, the Maoris having confidence in him, and went to him to settle their disputes. Francis & Annette lost 4 of their children from diphtheria. He died 21 December 1909 at Devonport, Auckland N.Z. A picture of him is seen in Figure 6.

A very small subsection of the large Pavitt family tree is shown which is relevant for Francis Pavitt’s son Ernest Alfred Pavitt is shown as a son of Francis and Annette. Ernest was born in Akaroa in late June 1856 and he died in 1945. He married Rose Jane Palmer, also known as Rosa (1860-1888), and this subsection of the family tree is presented as Figure 7.

The future history of E.A. Pavitt is intimately involved with British North Borneo, which as Sabah became part of Malaysia in 1963. It was said that he was lured by stories of promised riches and adventure when he arrived in North Borneo in 1880 at the age of 24.

The Brisbane Courier on 1 March 1895 quotes from the British North Borneo Herald of 1 January 1904 which describes the successes in BNG of growing coffee, sago and coconut planting, and the production of copra from the coconut husks. As well, Manilla hemp continues to be cultivated, and all 4 plants are contributing to the economy. In addition gold has been found, and the coal fields are turning out 100 tons per day. The report specfically mentions “Mr. E.A. Pavitt (who has) found a small seam of coal at Sandakan”, for which a Mr. Shaw has obtained a concession. The timber trade with China is active, and there is an increase of Chinese and Japanese immigration to North Borneo providing labour. These are heady times for a young man seeking his fortune. The town of Sandakan, as noted on the two wrappers, is shown by a red arrow in Figure 8.

Ernest Alfred Pavitt became the Chief Government Surveyor and Superintendent of Public Works Department for the British Colonial Government, and in May 1900 he prepared plans for the city of Jesselton. Ernest was responsible for the construction of the Sabah railway and he also was a Legislative Council Member in the Colonial Governmenr. His first wife having died in 1888, Ernest at the age of 40 married Kwai, a Kadazandusun woman, whose father was the headman of Limbahau village in Papar. They had 2 children, the firstborn being a son Jules. Jules parents separated 2 years after his birth. Jules changed his surname to Stephens following a rift with his father whom he blamed for ” never being there.” They reconciled when the first grandchild was born. Ernest also mined coal in Labuan and gold in Raub, Pahang. Apart from his professional life in Borneo, Ernest did a good deal of exploring in the Malay States of Pahang and Kalantau.

Ernest did return a few times to New Zealand whilst working in Borneo and as recorded in The Mercury (Hobart), on 2 July1898 he was married for a third time, on this occasion to Frances Ethel Butler, eldest daughter of the late J.J. Butler Esq., of Brooksby, Pontville Tasmania. He died in 1945 in Tasmania, either in Pontville or possibly Launceston.

I am indebted to Bridgett Yong-Stephens and her daughter Susannah for much of the Pavitt family history.

Addendum (August 2010):  I received an email from John Baldwin (FNZIS) in reply to my query to the NZ Institute of Surveyors, and although he considered that the Institute had somewhat sketchy information on Ernest Pavitt, his valuable reply did fill in many of the gaps in his professional life:  He joined the Institute in 1906.  He was a member with a non-practicing certificate from 1940-1945.  He died on 15 May 1945, and there was no obituary in the journals of 1946-48, probably because he had long left NZ.

The Institute’s records showed that in 1907 he paid his 1 guinea membership (£1,1shilling) , and when his membership card was set-up, his address was “Labuan” Claremont, Tasmania.  He was also at that address in 1938.  The NZ Surveyor in Sept 1924 ,and also in 1929, the member list gave his address as the Union Bank of Australasia, in Hobart, whereas an earlier listing (June-Sept 1918) had shown his address as Jesselton, British North Borneo.

The floodgates then opened on the professional life of Ernest Pavitt via the enthusiasm of John Baldwin.  He provided extra information on Pavitt’s surveying career in New Zealand, British North Borneo and the federated Malay States, as shown in Figure 9.

On his retirement he was honoured for his long service in British North Borneo as shown in Figure 10.

A photograph of the North Borneo Survey  Department Team shows Ernest Pavitt seated in the front row, with an umbrella between his knees (Figure 11).

It never ceases to amaze me where 2 wrappers have taken me, helped by several highly committed researchers.