Royal Reels: Gambling


This registered Business Reply Envelope had a purple handstamped ‘AIR MAIL’ as well as a ms. Brunette Downs N. T. registration label and it was sent to John Martin & Co. Limited, 92-106 Rundle St., Adelaide. It had 2 single small green One Shilling Lyre Bird stamps with a single purple 1d QEII stamp. The stamps were cancelled with 3 BRUNETTE DOWNS/ ( )/ N.T. postmarks, the date being illegible. The stamps were applied to the overweight envelope in spite of the printed ‘Postage and Fee will be paid on delivery’ (Figure 1).

The reverse showed a fine BRUNETTE DOWNS / 19 AU 57/ N.T. postmark, a REGISTERED ADELAIDE/ 10P21 AU 57/ SOUTH AUST. and the ms. showed it contained £50 in notes. The printed information suggested that the business envelope was posted to a large departmental store (Figure 2).

The original John Martin was a draper at Rundle Street, Adelaide who acquired a West Torrens 20 acre lot in 1880 and in 1882 a house was built on the property in 1882, which was called the “Pines’. John Martin’s store had begun on 24 October 1866 at 94 Rundle Street, Adelaide. It started as a modest partnership with Otto Peters who owned the small draper’s shop, but eventually Peters went out of the business. Obviously it was successful for they had expanded along Rundle Street, and after Peters left the business, John continued as a single trader until he brought the Hayward family into partnership with him.

John Martin had been born in England on 11 January 1841 and he went to South Australia as a young man threatened with TB. He married Margaret Tucker whose family came from London, and Margaret was born at Walkerville, S.A. She worked in John Martin’s Rundle Street store and eventually the owner married his pretty, young assistant. The marriage took place at North Adelaide at the home of Richard Martin, brother of John. They had five children – Ada, Claude, Royden and twins Leonard and Dudley. John Martin died on 25 November 1889 aged 49 years. Margaret was only 27 years when he died. There was an apparent inconsistency in the story for it was recorded that on “Easter Saturday 1901, a fire ripped through the store. Undaunted, John Martins (the store, not the man) held a fire sale three weeks later. And after several months of rebuilding it was business as usual”.

The family continued living at the “Pines” after John Martin’s death.  Mrs. Martin remarried, her second husband was Henry Stanley Bleechmore, a sharebroker and one of the executors of John Martin’s will. They had one son, Clive Bleechmore. The former Margaret Martin died on 31 October 1898, and in 1906 the executors transferred the “Pines” to the daughter Ada Ethel Mary Martin. Ada Martin and her bachelor brother, Royden lived on at the “Pines” for many years, until Miss Martin sold the property to The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in August 1941.

John Martin & Co. Ltd., colloquially known as “Johnnies”, was an Adelaide-based company which ran a popular chain of department stores In South Australia. It operated for more than 130 years from 1866 (he start-up date of John Martin’s drapery store) until its closure in 1998. Johnnies was operated by the prominent Hayward family for the majority of its existence and it became an Adelaide icon, responsible for the famous Adelaide Christmas Pageant. It was a respected “middle market” retailer, with a reputation for quality, range and value. For many years their claim was that they were the “Big Store” in 92-106 Rundle Street, Adelaide’s major shopping precinct.

They had business links with other major department store retailers (Sydney’s Grace Brothers and Tasmania’s Fitzgerald’s) with joint ownership of the “Intercontinental Buying Group”. This was in an era when Australian departmental store retailing was largely State based. John Martin’s also had significant shareholdings in other prominent South Australian companies.  The Hayward family ‘s involvement with John Martin’s is documented in the Australian Dictionary of Biography’s entry about Sir Edward Waterfield Hayward (1903-1983), business man and philanthropist, who jined John Martin’s in 1931 to further his retailing experience, and he soon became a director of the firm.  In 1946 he became joint managing director with his brother.

The registered envelope was sent from Brunette Downs, Northern Territory which was a very large cattle station on the Barkly Tablelands, north of the Barkly Highway, first taken up in the late 1890’s. Their well-known race meetings were first held from 1906 to 1914 and then again at regular annual meetings from 1949. The 30 mm diameter cancellation with large lettering, best seen on the envelope’s reverse, is known as Type 4 (of both S.A. and N.T. postmarks), and it was in use from 15 November 1933 until August 1957 at least.

Addendum (April 2010):   A picture of the demolition work on John Martin’s Department Store, the North Terrace side in 1998, is seen in Figure 3.

Addendum (April 2010): The State Library of South Australia (S.L.S.A.) responded to my email as follows: John Martin was born in Launceston, Cornwall, England, his father was Richard Martin, as well as the name of John’s brother. John married Margaret Tucker and they had 1 daughter and 4 sons. John died at 48 on 25 November 1889 aged 48 at “The Pines”, Plympton.   A picture of John Martin is shown, as well as their family home, respectively in Figures 4 and 5.

There was a large amount of information provided by Debra Heidik, Research Support Officer which confirmed what I had previouslyfound, and I am very grateful to her for provision of Figures 4 and 5.

Categories: Business, Family History