Royal Reels: Gambling


In spite of my great interest in the postmarks of New South Wales for the past 15 years, I have seen only 2 examples of this early 1900s postmark, and the derivation of the name has evaded me in my intermittently, repeated searches. The difficulty of finding any clues has been compounded by the frequent misspelling of Willson as Wilson.

The ‘Bible’ N.S.W. and A.C.T. Post, Receiving, Telegraph & Telephone Offices by N.C. Hopson and R. Tobin, Volume 4, (November 1999) gives the following information on the postoffice (page W-23) as follows: WILLSONS DOWNFALL (Position on the map) ‘W2 5k from Amosfield’; Post Office opened 1 June 1875; Postmaster W. Palmer; Money Order Office 1 October 1886; Telephone & Telegraph Service 23 October 1908; Semi Official Post Office 1 June 1909; TX Manual Telephone Exchange 12 September 1917; Non-Official Post Office 22 October 1917; Post Office closed & Telephone & Telegraph Office only; Telephone & Telegraph Office closed 27 September 1976: There were only 3 different cancellations: a numeral ‘780′; Type 1A 1882-1916; and Type 2D which had an apostrophe from 1919-57.

The present cancel is the better of the two I have seen, and it is an example of many others in this early period where the postmaster inserted the date slugs incorrectly. This unframed Type 2D is dated W(ILL)SONS DOWNFALL/ 7 SP/ 1914/ N.S.W, which postmarks the red 1d ‘Kangaroo on Map of Australia’ stamp (Figure 1).

The NLA newspapers beta website showed a column in The Sydney Morning Herald dated 2 September 1927 on p.6 that was headed Willson’s Downfall – To the Editor of The Herald, which read as follows: “Sir, – The statement of Mr. John White in his letter in to-day’s “Herald” as to the origin of the name “Willson’s Downfall”, in the Tenterfield district, is correct. The writer was for many years resident in that district, and had heard several old residents who knew the late Mr. George Willson confirm the fact that he had a capsize on the road at or near where the small village of Willson’s Downfall stands, and hence the name. The village is situated about 29 miles north of Tenterfield, on the Stanthorpe [Queensland]- Warwick road.”

“Mr. Willson was, at one time, in partnership with a Mr. Sweetland, and he owned or had mortgages over, one might say, half the town properties of Tenterfield, but unfortunately ended in a “financial” downfall, but it was the “physical” upset that still keeps his name alive in the nomenclature of the district.”

“In his time he was a leading citizen, and a sort of commercial “King.” The Maryland Stores, where he carried on business, are now carried on as a store by a son of the late Hon. C.A. Lee (who had almost a political record reign as a member for the district, having never been defeated in 25 years, during which period he was twice a minister)”.

The writer of this letter then goes on to name other politicians and business men none of which appears to b germane to George Willson and his “physical” or his “financial” downfall. The writer signed his letter EX-TENTERFIELDITE. Sydney, Aug. 21. I can’t account for the disparity of the 2 dates, but this somewhat garrulous man sounds to know his facts!

A small amount of additional information was found for George Willson who resided in Tenterfield, N.S.W. and his business partner, Charles Sweetman. The Moreton Bay Courier, Brisbane on page 3 had a long article which was headlined Annexation Movement In New England. George Willson was one of the leading proponents of an “influential assemblage” of prominent men (with a lesser role played by Sweetman) who met to petition the Queen that there was a need to separate an area of northern New South Wales with the aim that it be annexed by the colony of Queensland. This came about because there was a “continued and systematic neglect of the area by the Government of New South Wales”. The Sydney Morning Herald on 24 August 1864 listed that George Willson was made a Justice of the Peace, in the same paper dated 8 September 1869 there was a death notice for George Willson of Tenterfield N.S.W., stating that he had died at his home of apoplexy on 21 August 1869 at the age of 49.

Willson’s Downfall still exists even though it has no post office, and it shares the postal code of N.S.W. 2372, whereas its mail is delivered across the Queensland border. The town lies almost directly north of Sydney, but is 730 km away by road. I have not found the present population of Willson’s Downfall. The proximity of the town to Queensland is shown with a red arrow, and all the towns in the yellow portion of the map are in N.S.W., whereas Queensland is depicted in white, north and west of N.S.W. (Figure 2).

Categories: Places, Postmarks